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Monday, 27 August 2018

Retro Review: Why Do Fools Fall In Love (1998)

Why Do Fools Fall In Love
Cast: Halle Berry, Vivica A. Fox, Lela Rochon, Larenz Tate, Pamela Reed, Lane Smith, Little Richard
Genre: Biographical Drama
U.S Box Office Gross: over $12 million

Plot: 3 women each claim to be the widow of 1950s doo-wop singer, Frankie Lymon, claiming legal rights to his estate

'Biopic That Ain't No Fool'

For a biopic movie on someone I knew nothing about and whose music I was never familiar with, Why Do Fools Fall In Love still succeeded in providing a light-hearted, warm and convincing look at the pitfalls of stardom, mostly thanks to the performances by the leads that really make this worth a look. 

A singer two-times and uses a trio of women and with it, comes his downfall from grace due to polygamy, to his inevitable passing through drug addiction. This look at the little-known, and supposedly one-trick-pony 1950s sensation, Frankie Lymon, who in real life as I watched the ending, reminds me somewhat of Diff'rent Strokes Gary Coleman, was entertaining with a story that was engaging all the way and even with the almost 2-hour runtime, I never once switched off. 

Why Do Fools... looks at Frankie from the perspective of his three catty wives, with whom each of them fell for his charms and good looks - only to be scammed and taken for a ride by him, as they eventually hated him. He married each of them by chance and never divorced any of them. Frankie's own solo career first yo-yo-ed and then dwindled, as he was no longer a pin-up poster boy for adoring fans and he turned to heroin. 

The film also features appearances from Lane Smith (My Cousin Vinny), Pamela Reed (Kindergarten Cop), as well as singer Little Richard as himself, as a witness who testifies in court. 

Director of Selena, Gregory Nava doesn't really do much, especially with its TV movie-like feel, but the energetic musical and acting performances really ups the film and had it not been for the casting of Halle Berry, Vivica A. Fox, Lela Rochon and Larenz Tate and the manner of the turns they have given, Why Do Fools Fall In Love would have fallen through even further. This is another terrific performance by Tate and again, he is another actor, who should have been a bigger movie star and have a far more successful movie career. Lipsyncing to his songs such as Tutti Frutti, The Great Pretender, recapturing his swaggering moves and still, he also brings out that appealing charm, as well as fieriness and bad boy streak: a trait in which he has been known for in his other films. Halle Berry shines and this is another terrific performance that will be overlooked by many, as this film was and still not as well known as blockbusters, X-Men and Monster's Ball. Halle's career has been inconsistent when it comes to performances and the movies she chooses, but when she opts for projects that really show off her acting in a big way, she flourishes and Why Do Fools certainly does that as glamour queen, Zola. Whilst fans and African Americans will recognise Lela Rochon of Waiting to Exhale and Vivica A. Fox: both performers, especially Fox deliver powerhouse performances.

Even with its TV-movie like feel, this is a well-handled and smooth sailing drama that never gets too heavy-handed with the dramatics by toning things down when necessary with some lighthearted scenes, such as the widows bonding together to their catfights, namecalling and falling out as they are all vying for his royalties and with each of them claiming to be Frankie's wife. & there is never a dull moment throughout. 

The engaging performances and the film's decision to cherry pick and elaborate on the most lively and eventful moments of Frankie Lymon's life and the women who he became involved with was a delight to watch, whilst the tone still remains frothy and is never grating or narcissistic that it becomes off-putting.  

Final Verdict:

Though melodramatic and a movie which could have easily gone in the same direction as Great Balls of Fire (in reference to the Jerry Lee Lewis offering with Dennis Quaid), Why Do Fools Fall In Love is one of the best music biopics I have seen and the casting definitely made a huge difference and it was ultimately why it was so good to watch. 


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