'Fools': Film Review

Fools - Still - H - 2016
A sincere, half-cute love story weighted down by narrative contrivances.

Two losers start to fall for each other before they've really met in Benjamin Meyer's feature debut.

A love story whose romance is built entirely on the quirky defense mechanisms of its protagonists, Benjamin Meyer's Fools features a couple who decide to live together before they've even kissed, much less learned each others' names. Revolving around plot devices and at least one lead performance that would likely play better on the stage, Meyer's feature debut has found some admirers on the fest circuit but is unlikely to grow its audience in regular theatrical release. A heart beats beneath its foibles, though, perhaps representing a storytelling sensibility that simply hasn't found its legs yet.

Mary Cross, a stage thesp making her film debut, plays Susan, a lonely soul who wordlessly makes herself available to Sam (Michael Szeles) by persistently brushing her hand against his as they hold the pole on an L train. Instead of making small talk, Sam follows her home, a stalking incident treated here as sweet-shy courtship. He still doesn't speak to her, though, and it takes two more surprise encounters before Susan, having been kicked out by her roommate, shows up with all her possessions on the doorstep of a man she still hasn't spoken to.

This is far from the last credibility-stretcher in the film, which has the couple "getting to know" each other mostly via poker-faced fantasy talk. Susan is a princess, for instance, cast out of her kingdom but fated to return; Sam knows a slew of musicians (really just Sam with different funny hats and accents) who drop by to serenade Susan when she's down.

Which is a lot: Cross's mannered, unsmiling performance is a challenge for the picture, especially when paired with Szeles' emotional availability. Sam, a loser whose mother keeps setting him up with jobs he can't keep, comes to life once he starts work with elderly shut-ins; it's hard not to think he's being overly generous with Susan, who takes even longer to open up than the wary oldsters whose chores he tries to do.

Accumulating contrivances become harder to forgive in the pic's final scenes, when we meet Susan's family: Meyer and his cast come close to moving us, but can't get beyond some deeply implausible plot points and unconvincing resolutions.

Distributor: Indie Rights
Production company: 24 Truth
Cast: Michael Szeles, Mary Cross, Maury Cooper, Danny Goldring, Janet Ulrich Brooks
Director-screenwriter: Benjamin Meyer
Producers: Beth Schacter, Dana Scott
Director of photography: Scott Thiele
Composer: Craig DeLeon

Not rated, 87 minutes