Why Do Fools Fall In Love?

on August 28, 1998 by Luisa F. Ribeiro
   With its infectious musical numbers, candy-cane gleam and trio of feisty female leads, "Why Do Fools Fall in Love?", based on the life of 1950s doo-wop singer Frankie Lymon, is a flawed but fun romp down memory lane. Told via flashback by three women each claiming to be the late Lymon's wife, the story flip-flops between an upbeat look at pop music just before the advent of rock and the grim behind-the-scenes reality of drug abuse and personal disintegration. The inability to settle on either the former wives or Frankie as the focus of the drama weakens the film's impact.
   A lively squabble in the order of "will the real Mrs. Frankie Lymon please stand up" opens things up as former Platters vocalist Zola Taylor (Halle Berry), petty shoplifter Elizabeth Waters (Vivica A. Fox) and demure schoolteacher Emira Eagle (Lela Rochon) have at one another. Each demanding the legal right to Frankie's estate, the women sue slimy record producer Morris Levy (Paul Mazursky) for back royalties and rights to Frankie's songs and in the process reveal conflicting portraits of the man they have in common. Frankie (Larenz Tate) is all bright smiles and enthusiasm as the young lead singer of the Teenagers who score with the title song and take to the road with other '50s pop phenoms like The Platters, Little Richard and Bill Haley and the Comets.
   Bursting with success while fearful of the shifting tide of music, Frankie eventually becomes a heroin addict, overdosing at 26, already a has-been.
   The film's tone often mirrors the peppy tunes (including "I Want You to Be My Girl" and "The ABCs of Love," featuring vocals by the real Lymon and the Teenagers) so cheerfully and energetically rendered that it's often difficult to take the darker edge of Frankie's growing addiction and cavalier attitude about romantic commitment seriously. Despite gleaming period detail (poodle skirts giving way to the butt-hugging shiny dresses and big hair of the '60s girl-groups; the boys' cool collegiate look dissolving into the shiny sports jackets, skinny ties and sexy narrow pants), there is little sense of other critical influences of the day, including the burgeoning Civil Rights movement, only fleetingly indicated by a "Black Power" sign at LAX. Yet the stars (especially Berry and Fox) seem to be having such a good time, both in the 1980s and flashback sequences, its hard to bicker much with the dream-like nostalgic tone. Starring Halle Berry, Vivica A. Fox, Lela Rochon and Larenz Tate. Directed by Gregory Nava. Written by Tina Andrews. Produced by Paul Hall and Stephen Nemeth. A Warner release. Musical Drama. Rated R for language and some sexuality. Running time: 118 min
Tags: Halle Berry, Vivica A. Fox, Lela Rochon, Larenz Tate, Directed by Gregory Nava, Written by Tina Andrews, Produced by Paul Hall, Stephen Nemeth, A Warner release, Musical Drama, music, romantic, influences, sports, drug abuse

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