by Natasha Theobald
The best movies are like life, full of funny moments and honest moments, real struggles and almost joy. By that measuring stick, this is one of the best. Buoyed by a great script by Steve Kloves, who also directed, and exceptional performances from the three leads, the Baker Boys deserve a couple of hours of attention.The Baker Boys have been playing piano together for 31 years and performing their lounge act for fifteen of them. Frank (Beau Bridges) is the responsible brother. He takes care of the business end of things. He is good with people, a family man, and he enjoys performing the same scripted act night after night in one smoky room after another. He is the journeyman of the pair.
Brother Jack (Jeff Bridges) is the artist. He is a brooding loner who has difficulty working and playing well with others. He is brutally honest and devastatingly sexy. He draws women in with his great hands and rough-hewn charm, only to discard them quickly. His life is sort of empty, as he comes home to his dog, Eddie (Drake) and, occassionally, the little girl (Ellie Raab) from upstairs. He has let go of what might have been, given his talent, to be part of the family business.
The boys are having some trouble drumming up any business lately, though, and they decide to take on a singer. The auditions are hilariously disastrous (you must see Jennifer Tilly doing "The Candy Man"), but, over an hour late, in stumbles Susie Diamond (Michelle Pfeiffer), a former escort with a rich, sultry voice. All of a sudden, they are playing to full houses and getting better deals. The change, while promising, is a little dangerous. The shake up of the status quo forces each of them to re-examine what they really want, and what they really want may lie just out of reach.
This is the first time the Bridges brothers have worked together. They both studied piano as kids and were able to brush up for the roles. The relationship between the brothers, their differences and common bond, is central to the movie, and the casting of real brothers enriches the telling of the story. Beau Bridges has the tough part of playing second fiddle, but he manages it with grace and charm. Jeff Bridges is as amazing as usual, creating another full character, flawed and bold and utterly watchable.
Michelle Pfeiffer is the catalyst for change. She also draws a portrait of a wounded survivor, rough around the edges but soft in the middle. She brings an energy and a spark into their world, making it impossible for them to continue to ignore the lives they have not led. And, she does a great job with the singing. Special kudos to Peggy Holmes, who is credited with the choreography for "Makin' Whoopee" on the piano top, which Pfeiffer sells and then some.
The movie is about musicians and is, therefore, filled with wonderful music, mostly jazz. In addition to the familiar favorites that are part of the act, the original music was done by Dave Grusin.It seems to me that they don't make movies for adults anymore. If something can't draw the PG-13 crowd, it just doesn't get done. This is a movie for grown-ups -- intelligent, raw, and real -- and the experience of it is fully satisfying.
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originally posted: 02/04/03 13:33:18