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Written and directed by Steve Kloves, `The Fabulous Baker Boys' is a tale
of music and brotherly love set in Seattle. The Baker boys are Jack and
Frank (real life brothers Jeff and Beau Bridges), who eke out a living
playing piano together at various venues throughout the Emerald City, a
basic lounge act they've been doing for fifteen years. Frank is the
responsible one, because he has to be; he has a wife, kids and a home in the
suburbs. He manages their business, secures the bookings and is content to
stick with a formula that works. For him, it's not about the music, it's
about keeping food on the table for those who depend on him. Jack, on the
other hand, is unattached and could care less about the business end of the
partnership. As long as it affords him a modicum of security as well as
dignity, he is more than willing to just go along for the ride.
For Jack, though, underneath it all, it is about the music; it's about jazz. On off nights he will steal away alone to some small club to play, and deep down inside he knows that this is not only what he really wants, but needs. And he knows he could be great, if only he'd let himself go. The trouble is, he's been with Frank his whole life, and as long as the act is working he just can't make the break. Unless something happens, his dreams are destined to remain suppressed and unrealized. It is only when one of their regular clubs balks at rescheduling them that the brothers begin to realize that perhaps their act is getting a bit stale. So they decide to try adding a singer to the act. After a memorable scene in which a number of young hopefuls are auditioned, Suzie Diamond (Michelle Pfeiffer) enters their life. She joins the act on a trial basis, and after an amusing and somewhat tentative beginning, infuses it with new life, though Frank continues to adamantly resist too much of a departure from their original show. (`Does anyone really want to hear Feelings' again?' she asks him at one point). Ultimately, however, Suzie becomes the impetus for change that Jack has needed all along, and the stage is set for the decisive moment, which comes when the dignity of the brothers is compromised due to an incident on Frank's part of uncharacteristic carelessness. When Jack tells Frank, `We've never been clowns before' you know exactly how deep it has cut. Kloves has fashioned an entertaining study of relationships, change, and the effects of complacent loyalty and self-denial; and the importance of following your own heart. When Jack sits down alone at the piano in that smoke-filled club, we know that this is where he is meant to be. Filmed on location in and around Seattle, with a terrific score by Dave Grusin,a supporting cast that includes Jennifer Tilly (Monica) and Ellie Raab (Nina), and a classic scene in which Suzie Diamond croons `Makin' Whoopee' atop a piano, `The Fabulous Baker Boys' is an absolute gem you do not want to miss. I rate this one 10/10.
I consider Baker Boys the best film on music because it is one of the
noir stories ever written on the subject. It is an important film because
the subject matter: an expose of musical art married to entertainment. It
a subject rarely revealed in American media.
Most people think of "musical art" as something found at the classical music concert or the college music department. The other stuff we hear is entertainment, right? Well, sometimes it just isn't that simple. Baker Boys is a story based on those cases of mixed marriage when the talented artist finds himself locked into an employment situation that hampers his artistic ability. It may come as a surprise to Jazz and commercial music lovers that such music artists really do exist beneath the glamorous facade of their favorite music acts (not to mention films). The story of Jack Baker means to reveal this dark underbelly of the entertainment business.
It is well for the public to understand how and why such musicians exist. The distribution of a film such as Baker Boys is but one step toward this end. While most people saw the film as a romance involving the swing music genre, what they didn't seem to recognize is the more important underlying contextual theme. This issue - of undiscovered musical talent - is not popular. Unfortunately the average layperson is not familiar enough with music to understand or care about why a musician would be unhappy with his job. It is easy to see why most people avoided this, the main theme of the film - it's too dark - and instead focused on the romance and the style.
In the end, Baker Boys is a story of one Jack Baker, an entertainer who was finally bold enough to make the transition to Jazz artist. It is a story of passive resistance to what Blake Edwards immortalized as that "other" part of the entertainment industry known behind the scenes as S.O.B. (Standard Operating Bullshit). It is but one fictional story that represents many, many similar true-life cases of successful failure.
Jeff and Beau Bridges - brothers in real life - are here united to play
brothers on the screen. It's not the first time real-life brothers have
played fictitious brothers in a movie (in fact, in The Long Riders several
famous siblings paired up to similar effect). However, The Fabulous Baker
Boys really benefits from the pairing. The sibling rivalry that runs through
this film feels very credible and very convincing, possibly because Jeff and
Beau aren't really acting but are simply using their real-life love/hate
brotherly attitudes to fuel their performances in front of the
It's a fairly thin story, but well told. Jack Baker (Jeff B.) and Frank Baker (Beau B.) have spent years working together as stage pianists in various bars, hotels and night-clubs around Seattle. Their long-running act begins to run out of steam and they find themselves playing to empty rooms.... even their more established employers begin to express doubts about their ability to pull in the big crowds. They decide to hire a female vocalist to spice up the appeal of their show and, after over thirty awful applicants, they finally unearth a winner in the shape of Suzy Diamond (Michelle Pfeiffer). Initially, Suzy provides them with a turn in their fortunes, but the future of the trio becomes cloudy when she and Jack develop sexual yearnings for each other. The problems don't stop there, with Frank and Jack slowly becoming more and more distant with each other as their views on how best to market their musical talents are revealed to be very different.
The Fabulous Baker Boys is extremely well-acted throughout, with Pfeiffer in particular giving an outstanding performance (she even sang most of her own songs). The main themes of sibling rivalry and unfulfilled talent are generally engrossing, and help to paper over the thinness of the story. Jeff acts rather moodily for much of the time and is very believable as a man working in the lower ranks of his trade when he could've reached the top. Beau is also in fine form as a performer who does what he does simply because it puts money in the family kitty. It's a hard film to describe, because it's not really about very much, but if you can adjust to the relaxed pace and just enjoy the leisurely development of the three main characters then you will come away from the film feeling thoroughly satisfied.
Oh, this movie is the best. An absolute must-see. It's dreamy and
romantic, yet cynical, so it's like having your cake and eating it, too.
The Brothers Bridges are excellent (I wonder how much of their real-life
relationship crept into their on-screen relationship) and Michelle Pfeiffer
is absolutely perfect as Suzie Diamond. This is the movie in which Ms.
Pfeiffer transcends, completely and irrevocably, the realm of mere mortals
and achieves goddess status. She's smart, tough, funny, and sexy--all at
the same time! When she stretches out on a piano to sing "Makin' Whoopee",
she is radiant and reminds one of the greatness and the glamour of old
RENT THIS MOVIE TONIGHT!!!!
After seeing the rating for this movie, I'm convinced about one thing:
the average viewer doesn't want good movies, all they are interested in
is some cheap entertainment with big explosions, a lot of violence and
shooting and if possible even more car chases. How else could you
explain the fact that movies like "Batman Begins" or "Spiderman" and
yes even the "The Lord of the Rings"-trilogy make it to the top 250,
but a movie like this one doesn't even get a 7/10 (The actual rating is
6.6/10 after 4,563 votes). Am I saying that this movie belongs in that
list too? No, I'm not, because it is a very good movie, but there are
plenty of better ones. It's just the fact that I don't understand why
people no longer seem to appreciate some very good acting and a fine
"The Fabulous Baker Boys" tells the story about two professional musicians, Frank Baker and his younger, less committed, but more talented brother Jack, who have been playing as a piano duo in bars and hotel lounges for many years, but who seem to have lost much of their appeal to the audience. They aren't asked for new performances and they realize that something has to be done. They decide to hire a new female singer. During the auditions there isn't one who can sing or keep tone and they are convinced that they will never find one either. But then Suzie Diamond comes stepping in. She's 1.5 hours late, has a big mouth and hasn't got the right 'entertainment' experience (she has worked as an escort girl). But they give her a chance and they are astonished by her qualities. Together they make the act successful again, but when the relation between Suzie and Jack briefly becomes more than professional, tension between all three builds up and forces the band to break up...
Although I didn't know the name of the director, Steven Kloves, I was convinced that this could be a very good movie. The reason for that was because I knew that Sydney Pollack was one of the producers. That's no guarantee for success of course, but it sure helped me to get some confidence in this movie. And it has to be said. Kloves has done a fine job in writing and directing this movie. I'm sure that it will not appeal to a large audience because it isn't very spectacular, but what he has done with it certainly proves that the man has talent. He has written a solid, effective, but simple story without too many extra's and I really appreciate that. Also in his direction he has kept everything quite sober. This is 'just' a love story involving a small band, but it works and that's all that matters.
Of course he has been helped by his excellent cast. Jeff Bridges and Beau Bridges are really very good in playing the two pianists, but it was Michelle Pfeiffer who had me completely in her power. Not only does she look and act very sensual in this movie, she sings like an angel. I knew that she was a very talented actor, but that she could sing that well, really was a big surprise to me.
Overall this movie deserves to be seen by a bigger audience, although I'm convinced that it will never happen. It lacks everything to draw in a big crowd and even when they give it a try, they will probably not like it because it's nothing special in their opinions. Personally I liked it a lot. A good story, some very fine acting, very good directing,... make me believe that this movie doesn't deserve a rating lower than a 7.5/10.
Possibly the best ensemble acting since the Hawks, Bogart and Bacall version of "The Big Sleep". There aren't many films of the eighties that match the sheer class of the best studio pictures of the thirties, forties and fifties. This one does. Watch the scene where Jeff Bridges lights Pfeiffer's cigarette for a few seconds' vignette of perfectly restrained and utterly revealing acting. But then, almost every scene in this movie is at or near this standard. It's a film in a thousand, if that, that makes you believe you are seeing a glimpse into real life at a particular place and time. The Fabulous Baker Boys is three people's intersecting lives in Seattle in the late eighties. As real as if you had been there? No. As right as if you had been there? Yes.
TFBB is such a terrific movie, you feel like a child in a toy store wanting to tell it all. Everything in this story falls into place, the pace is great, the acting is brilliant and yet it's in the details that one discovers the masterpiece. There's the audition scene, the little story about the sick dog and the girl from next door to show you Jeff Bridges does care, the introductions by Beau as they perform in their special place, The Starfire Lounge and then repeats the same line in another cocktail bar, the bathroom scenes in the hotel they do their Festive season gig (quite different what you might have expected from a bathroom scene between Michelle Pfeiffer and Jeff Bridges !), the dog leaving the elevator in the hotel on his own to join his boss who is playing alone, his kind of music. This movie gets better with repeated viewings, so buy it instead of renting it.It's a mystery to me why Steve Kloves did not make more films and instead waited to become a scriptwriter for the Harry Potter films more than 10 years later.
There is no way I could possibly give Baker Boys anything less then a
10, even though as far as personal enjoyment goes, I had some problems
with it. Yet, without a doubt the fact remains that this movie, on many
levels is extraordinary.(not OK or good-extraordinary.) I Personally am
very surprised there aren't a lot more comments on here about Baker
Obviously, Michelle as well as the Bridges brothers were fantastic. But most have said that so I won't get into that to much. I was very impressed(and a bit awed) by this screenplay and how incredible, not just the dialogue was, but the mannerisms, the little "back and Fourths" and quirks of each person-the writing was way above merely being good. Beyond admiration, however, I was touched by the writer's ability to capture the world of entertainment and music so perfectly. This is a movie where, (after Suzy, frank and Jack), the music and world these people live in, becomes the fourth main character of the movie. And anyone who has lived in a similar reality at anytime in their life, will feel like their seeing old friends....
My viewing experience was not perhaps the most fun I've ever had, for two simple reasons. One, because I, like many others, will concede this movie moves extremely slowly and unfortunately slow movingness in a movie is one thing that's always been a problem for me. Second, this movie is draped in nostalgia and made me feel more sad then anything else when it was over. The gloom I felt however, was also coupled with knowing I just watched a really well done movie-so it was gloom mixed with admiration, sort of like listening to Pink Floyd.
It takes time to get into Baker Boys, it's a slow burn not an immediate rush. It is one of the most nostalgic pictures I've ever Seen. People have mentioned 70's, 80's I'd say those periods and even earlier. There's an old style glamor coupled with a bittersweet sleepy nostalgia-and anyone who has experienced the stuff of nighttime, and neon lights, will be back in that place again whether they want to be there or not. That's entertainment.
This movie is one of my favourites, probably because I'm a true Jeff
Bridges-fan. I think most people are familiar with the story. It's
about 2 brothers playing piano in hotel lounges and bars etc. Beside
the Bridges-brothers, Michelle Pfeiffer is also in this movie. She is
the star of the show and gives one hell of a performance too. The story
isn't unique. There are probably more movies made like this, trying to
tell the same thing, but for me it really worked. I love every scene of
this movie. I love piano's, beautiful women, Jeff Bridges' acting and
great performances in general. "The Fabulous Baker Boys" has it all.
It think it truly deserves a better rating. 6.6 is way too low. I should at least reach the level of 7/10. I personally would give this movie an 8 or 8,5, but to compensate the underrating a little I will give it a 9. I can't think of any reason not the see this movie. It isn't a psychological drama. It's a drama with a fine story, great performances and a wonderful cast. Michelle Pfeiffer deserved the awards she won for her performance. To me, it became kind of a classic. See this movie! I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
After playing small club gigs for over 15 years, the "Baker Boys" finally
come to grips with some realities.
"Susie" comes into their act and lives. She's a former "escort" and blues singer, whom they hire to rejuvenate their somewhat tired act.
This she does, in more ways than one.
"The Fabulous Baker Boys" is an accurate and frank depiction of musicians' lives-on-the-road. It reveals what happens after the audience goes home and the musicians retire to their nice hotel rooms.
But after years, one nice hotel room is the same as another. Likewise, their music routines can become as stale as leftover tobacco smoke in their vacated clubs.
Jeff and Beau Bridges execute some the finest work of their careers in this film. Likewise, Michelle Pfeiffer equally supports them, as well as does her own singing.
Dave Grusin and John Hammond's soundtrack piano renditions are excellent, as is Peggy Holmes' choreography for Ms. Pfeiffer. Sydney Pollack was wise to financially support this production as executive producer.
Writer director Steven Kloves came up with a winner here, marred only by some general slow pacing and an ambiguous though appropriate ending.
"The Fabulous Baker Boys'" reputation continues to grow and be appreciated by more audiences, through cable and DVD distributions. It signifies a rare glimpse at backstage life-on-the-road of musicians who so enrich our lives, yet are all too often taken for granted.
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