Another Season, Another Reason

Whenever I wonder what constitutes a classic film The Fabulous Baker Boys is where I go for the answer. Like a great piece of jazz, its elements flawlessly chime together, placing you in a moment in time, amidst a romantic drama full of soul, emotion and strong character.Frank Jack and SusieFrank and Jack Baker (Jeff and Beau Bridges) are a pair of run-of-the-mill, piano players who decide to take on a singer in the hope of invigorating their moribund lounge act. 37 girls who can’t carry a tune later, former AAA escort Susie Diamond (Michelle Pfeiffer) falls into their lives, shaking up their routine, and permanently changing the brothers relationship in the process. Sensational Susie DiamondThe Fabulous Baker Boys has a remarkable, yet sparing narrative. Steve Kloves’ screenplay doesn’t tell us much more about these characters than we’d learn if we soaked up the beer in the bar at one of their bookings. The Brothers Bridges, not surprisingly have great chemistry, and you can’t help but wonder how much of their off-screen relationship is brought to their roles.Frank Jack and SusieBeau makes for a likeable, responsible older brother and Jeff is cool, as always, as he imbues his character with the unique brand of minimalism he’s been refining for years. The frisson of sexual attraction between Jeff and Michelle is perfectly played out with meaningful looks and minimal dialogue. Pfeiffer merely hinting at the pain hidden beneath Susie’s facade.Susie Centre StageBatman Returns aside, The Fabulous Baker Boys remains Michelle’s most iconic performance, and although she may not be a polished singer, her voice is elegant and powerful enough to draw the viewer in, just as surely as Susie draws the audiences into the Seattle lounges. Once you’re there, Dave Grusin’s music and the high gloss lighting of Michael Ballhaus cast a wonderful spell.Susie Diamond (Michelle Pfeiffer)It may not feature a Santa Monica beach or a Times Square New Year’s Eve, but The Fabulous Baker Boys endures as a classic, primarily because it chooses realistic characters over caricatures. Watching this film, you feel as though you’re on a journey with these characters, and long after the credits roll you’ll be left thinking about Frank, Jack and Susie, wondering where their paths might lead them in the future.

18 Comments

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18 responses to “Another Season, Another Reason

  1. Evi

    Another film I watched thanks to your reviews. The words you choose when you write “flawlessly chime together”.

    What I loved most about The Fabulous Baker Boys is the comforting ’80s feel. And who can forget Pfeiffer’s performance on the piano?

    • Another season, another reason to post about The Fabulous Baker Boys.

      I was intending to save this post for Michelle’s birthday next week, but as usual I couldn’t resist pushing the publish button.
      Thank you, as always, for your kind comments.

  2. You are right, what you said about how the viewer really cares at the end what happens to Frank, Jack and Susie in the future, is one of the film’s brilliant accomplishments. Great point that many reviews overlook.

    • Thanks RB. To put it simply this is one of my all time favourite films, where the character of Susie Diamond cemented Michelle Pfeiffer as my favourite actress.
      Honestly, the final scene with Michelle and Jeff outside of her apartment sums up everything I love about film…simply magical.

  3. Paul S,
    Yeah, the cast really does seem in a natural, non-acting groove. One of my favorite films where I hesitate to watch it again without those first time goose bumps…
    RR

  4. Hey Paul, did my piano post inspired you to blog about The Fabulous Baker Boys? ;) I agree Michelle is positively sublime in this film. What strikes me about her is that she is one of those extremely beautiful actresses yet she’s not a bimbo or airhead y’know, there’s substance beneath that beauty. I’m enamoured with another British actor right now that also fit that category, in fact I’m even more amazed by his talent & chameleonic ability on top of his looks.

    • Hey Ruth, your posts are always inspirational, as are your supportive comments, and I know exactly how you feel about Toby Stephens!
      I’ve been a Pfeiffer pfan for over 25 years, and although Michelle and I have grown older my affection for her films, and the characters she’s played has never waned. I’m sure you’ll join me in wishing her a happy birthday for tomorrow (29th).

  5. I love this movie.
    I remember watching Baker Boys when it first came out on VHS and liking it, but it was one afternoon, I think I was home sick, lying on the couch, I watched it again and I just fell in love with it. The scene where Jeff goes off on Beau in the alleyway, basically beating him up against a chain-link fence, with Beau begging and Jeff yelling, as he tries to break his finger, heartbreaking. (spoiler!) But all the more due to the scene afterwards in Beau’s den. Damn, I’ve gotta’ watch this one again.

  6. I remember watching The Fabulous Baker Boys when it first came out. Now that I’m a bit older and see Pfeiffer, I’m blown away at how young she looks in that movie. Not to say she looks old today, but it’s hard to picture her younger than her role as Elvira in Scarface. Then again, I do remember Grease 2 and she was young there, too!

  7. An underappreciated film, for sure. My God, Michelle is gorgeous in this. What she lacks in voice she makes up for with sheer charisma and those dazzling eyes.

    • Welcome Michael and thank you for your comments. They’re especially welcome at the moment as I feel like my posts have become as stale and repetitive as Frank and Jack Baker’s act. Parsley in Susie Diamond’s parlance!

  8. I’m a little late to the party on this article, but this was a great read. This whole movie is wonderful, and as amazing as Pfeiffer is, she overshadows, I think, the Bridges, who you rightfully say are probably playing their off-screen relationship. Movies like this are a gem, and Michelle is a vision. Great post.

    • Welcome and no worries, no one is ever late to the party here.
      It’s funny, I sat down to watch The Fabulous Baker Boys on Saturday night with someone who’d never seen it and about 10 minutes in they turned to me and said “This is awful, can we turn it off.”
      Feeling suitably chastened I changed channels and left it there.

      • There are some who just don’t get the great movie experience. Ha. It happens. I recently had someone ask me to stop watching Moonstruck with them because they didn’t get it.

        • Evi

          Sometimes it’s not even about the movie itself, but rather about the memories and emotions it evokes. Some months ago I rewatched She-Devil just to get that 80s-90s feel.

          Hope you are having a nice Sunday, Paul!

  9. I loved Michelle Pfeiffer in The Fabulous Baker Boys, my goodness, from the piano singing to the incredible scene where she goes through Jeff Bridges’ toiletries, she’s unbelievably sexy. But I submit the most iconic female performance from 1989 was Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally…

  10. Michelle Pfeiffer’s performance in The Fabulous Baker Boys was my favorite of the year, but Meg Ryan would be a close second. When you think of most, if not all, of Meg’s comedic performances after When Harry Met Sally (especially when Norah Ephron directed her) and then you watch her as Sally again, you’d hardly know it was the same actress.

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