Why Do Fools Fall in Love

Movie review by
Barbara Shulgasser-Parker, Common Sense Media
Why Do Fools Fall in Love Movie Poster Image
Drug use brings down teen idol; sex, violence, cursing.
  • R
  • 1998
  • 116 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Don't use drugs. Some talented celebrities fall out of the spotlight, especially if they use drugs. People under the influence do terrible things.

 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Frankie was a talented singer, dancer, and songwriter, but he got involved in drugs and his career disappeared.

Violence

A drunk and angry Frankie holds his wife's dog out the window, then drops the dog to its death. A dealer beats Frankie up for non-payment. He draws a knife but doesn't use it. Two women have a fight near a pool, which is played for comedy. MPs arrest Frankie for being AWOL from the army. A father is described as beating his children and wife. 1950s racism is illustrated when a group of black singers enter a Chicago diner filled with hostile white people. A drug addict destroys his girlfriend's house looking for money. A man punches a mirror. Frankie is seen applying a tourniquet to his arm, presumably to inject heroin. He then slumps over and dies.

Sex

Adults are seen making love. A glimpse of a woman's breast is seen from the side. A woman makes extra money as a streetwalker to help pay for her addict husband's expensive rehab. A man's erection is referred to as the "rock of Gibraltar."

 

Language

"F--k," "s--t," "ass," "butt," "bitch," "piss," and "pee."  

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adults smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol, and use drugs. A man, in and out of rehab, succumbs to heroin use.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Why Do Fools Fall in Love is a fictionalized look at the meteoric rise and fall of the career of 1950s teen singer-songwriter Frankie Lymon and the court case triggered by his premature death from a heroin overdose. Three women all claim to be his surviving spouses and fight over what they believe to be millions in royalties. Flashbacks show him performing, wooing the three women, and some quick, mostly obscured, scenes of lovemaking (the side of two breasts are seen). A woman makes extra money as a streetwalker to help pay for her addict husband's expensive rehab. A man's erection is referred to as the "rock of Gibraltar." Characters drink and smoke cigarettes and use drugs. A man is beaten for not paying his drug dealer. Language includes "f--k," "s--t," "bitch," and "ass." A drunk and angry Frankie holds his wife's dog out the window, then drops the dog to its death.

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What's the story?

Frankie Lymon (Larenz Tate) became lead singer of The Teenagers when he was 13 and quickly had a hit with the song that gives the film its title, WHY DO FOOLS FALL IN LOVE, which he and partner Herman Santiago wrote. More than a decade after his death of a drug overdose at the age of 25, three women -- all claiming to be his surviving wife -- sue for royalties. Did he marry any of them legally? Were some not divorced from previous spouses? Did the marriages actually take place? These issues are explored in the courtroom as the women and their lawyers revisit their relationships with Frankie in flashbacks. Elizabeth (Vivica A. Fox) is swept off her feet when she shoplifts and Frankie saves her from a store detective. When Frankie's dealer beats him up for non-payment, she gives the guy her savings. Zola (Halle Berry) tours with The Platters, a successful R&B group, and loses everything when Frankie descends into addiction and cleans out her bank account. Emira (Lela Rochon) is the innocent schoolteacher who supports him as he struggles to get back in the limelight. The women agree to share the award, no matter who wins, but the winner betrays the others. In the end the court's decision disappoints everyone.   

Is it any good?

This is a movie that should have been better. Why Do Fools Fall in Love boasts four attractive and able actors in Berry, Tate, Fox, and Roshon, but they often have no choice but to sink to the level of a paint-by-the-numbers biopic script that any celebrity on the downswing could be plugged into. The story never addresses, nor even seems to think about, Lymon's complete lack of self-awareness as he strives for comebacks and repeatedly acts irresponsibly. The cliché of his plight as a fallen star is sadly predictable, portrayed with far more emotional resonance in too many other, better, biographical movies -- the four A Star is Born versions as well as bios of Ray Charles, Jim Morrison, Billie Holiday, Johnny Cash, and Charlie Parker, to name just a few.  

The movie spends no time whatever showing why Lymon turned to drugs, nor does it clarify how he quit during the times he surprisingly seems to be clean. There's some suggestion that Frankie was a bit too cocky for his own good, but that's not explored. There's a suggestion that he might have partied too hard and that's why he lost his career, but that's not explored, either. There's also a suggestion that he played all the women in his life, deliberately committing bigamy, but that too is left unexplored.  Audiences can delight in one never-disappointing performer -- in a category that includes no one else –- Lymon's friend, the iconic R&B star Little Richard playing himself. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the dangers of drug addiction. Does the movie say anything about why Lymon used drugs? Why do you think he became an addict?

  • What do you think of Frankie's three wives? Does the movie want us to view them as good people? Does the movie favor one over the others? How can you tell?

  • How does this story differ from other movies you've seen about troubled celebrities?

Movie details

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