Why Do Fools Fall In Love
With The Teenagers, doo-wop singer Frankie Lymon was among the first to enjoy success in the first wave of rock 'n' roll; he died of a heroin overdose in 1968. Why Do Fools Fall In Love tells Lymon's story, sort of. Instead of serving as a conventional biopic, Fools approaches his life a la Rashomon, through a series of sometimes conflicting courtroom accounts, as three womenPlatters vocalist Zola Taylor (Halle Berry), a streetwise shoplifter (Vivica A. Fox), and a religious country girl (Lela Rochon)who may or may not have been legally married to Lymon fight over his belatedly bestowed royalty money. It's an interesting choice for a framing device, but it also allows material that's considerably less interesting than Lymon's life to consume the film's running time. When Fools focuses on Lymon, it's frequently good. As the singer, Larenz Tate (Dead Presidents, The Postman) captures both his ambitious, likable street-kid charm (despite being noticeably older than the 13-year-old Lymon seen singing over the closing credits) and the self-destructive streak that eventually did him in. The period detail is terrific, if occasionally overdone, and director Gregory Nava (Selena, Mi Familia) includes one thrillingly brilliant scene of an early rock concert: The camera moves smoothly behind excited teenagers outside the theater, through the lobby to the stage and around it, to the side, and then back front and center again to capture the heated atmosphere of the proceedings. But despite Tate's performance and occasional moments of brilliance from Nava, Why Do Fools Fall In Love never really conveys the essence of its subject. This could have something to do with the outsiders' perspective of the women in his life, but the framing device works so poorly that it's not clear. All three actresses are fine in the flashbacks, but so much of Fools is given over to scenes of them wearing unconvincing middle-age make-up (it's Berry's worst wig role since B.A.P.S) and indulging in dish-heavy talk-to-the-hand-style exchanges that much of the film's potency is sapped. It's a fascinating story, awkwardly told. Little Richard, however, does a terrific job playing himself.