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FOOLS (review)

Review by Dean Galanis

Produced by Dana Scott, Beth Schacter
Written and Directed by Benjamin Meyer
Starring Michael Szeles, Mary Cross

Two lost-soul strangers – Sam, who keeps getting fired from jobs his mother arranges for him through her many exes, and Susan, a cosmetics worker who has no luck with men – brush hands while holding the safety rail on the subway.

They see each other a few more times, with nary a word exchanged, until one day Sam comes home to find Susan, with her belongings, waiting for him in front of his apartment building.

At this point, Sam finally has found a job that’s a surprising fit while Susan has been kicked out of her apartment by her longtime roommate.

Sam brings Susan and her things inside. Susan then berates Sam for not picking her up at the airport.

He looks at her like she’s nuts, but she keeps going with the improv fantasy while he stares at her.

There’s a very nice moment here when Susan pauses her performance and waits for Sam to reply. She has a desperate look on her face until Sam takes the improvisational baton and starts to run with it, acting like a longtime lover/boyfriend/husband to Susan’s fabricated lover/girlfriend/wife.

Her look at this point is a delightful mixture of pleasure, apprehension and profound relief: the show can, if not necessarily must, go on.

I imagine that there are few subway commuters that haven’t had a fantasy (sexual, romantic, adventurous) about a fellow passenger. Fools begins with this lovely little moment of the strangers’ touching hands and eventually letting the touch linger, and quickly moves on to the two actually moving in together, while doing their best (for a while) to remain strangers by recreating themselves in roles to play for their audience of one.

Susan claims to be an errant Hungarian princess, while Sam claims to be the son of a famous Russian stage actor. One interesting thing about Fools is that we know that many of these tales are actually false, but we’re not so sure about others; in fact, the characters themselves may believe some of these lies to be true. 

The premise is a bit far-fetched, but solid writing, direction and especially acting sell it. The two leads have chemistry but not fiery passion, which is just what the story needs, and both actors do quite well in their roles.  Due in part to the low budget, as well as the nature of the story, Fools sometimes looks and feels like an improvisational play, but this is not necessarily a bad thing. It is dialogue heavy after the first few wordless encounters, but it’s good, believable dialogue.  (There is a somewhat synthetic conflict that arises around the hour mark, but it’s redeemed by what follows).

The situation also dovetails nicely with other aspects of their lives. Sam finds his newly found improvisational skills become handy at work (his workplace subplot is nicely handled, by the way), while Susan’s seeming need to communicate with Sam with only (?) lies appears to have deep-seated, psychological roots, which come into play in the final act.

Fools is no classic, but it takes an interesting premise and explores it without belaboring it, giving us a glimpse into two people floundering through life who find each other in a most unique way. 

What follows could have been deadly in the wrong hands, but writer/director Benjamin Meyer and actors Mary Cross and Michael Szeles (and a strong supporting cast) make this a minor gem.

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