Plot: What’s it about?
The Fabulous Baker Boys was released in October, 1989 and until I popped the disc in the player for this review – I’d never seen it. Granted, there are a lot of films I’ve not seen and several that I’ve seen that folks have never heard of. Still, one held in such high regard was one that I wanted to give a chance (better late than never, right)? I’d seen clips, of course, Michelle Pfeiffer crawling on a piano singing her rendition of “Makin’ Whoopee” and, well, what else is there to say? The project had been kicked around for a few years and several studios. First time writer/director Steve Kloves eventually ended up getting the job from George Roy Hill and the rest, as they say, is history. Harry Potter fans might remember Kloves as most of his notoriety came from adapting the novels for the films. At any rate, this is where his journey began, so let’s take a look.
Jack (Jeff Bridges) and his brother, Frank (Beau Bridges) are a two piano act playing nightclubs and hotels in Seattle. It’s an act they can do in their sleep and Jack has turned his back on his true passion in a sense of loyalty to his brother. Frank handles the business end of the partnership and is content scraping by, playing smoke-filled nightclubs night after night. The duo, sensing that they need to change a few things, decide to enlist a singer. As we all know, that person is Susie Diamond (Michelle Pfeiffer), who breathes new life into their act. While Frank has a wife and kids, Jack is more of a player. He starts to fall for Susie and things don’t exactly work out as planned. If two is company – three’s a crowd.
It’s hard to pinpoint what movie really made Michelle Pfeiffer a star, but her turn as Susie Diamond certainly turned heads and even garnered her a Best Actress Academy Award (she lost to Jessica Tandy in Driving Miss Daisy). And she’d come off a string of hits with Tequilla Sunrise, Married to the Mob and Ladyhawke. Add to that, the performance between Jeff and Beau Bridges is part of what makes the film work. I’m sure that not all of the action in the film was scripted and the term “sibling rivalry” comes to mind. Nevertheless, The Fabulous Baker Boys is all its cracked up to be. Great performances abound. While it might not be everyone’s cup of tea, it’s served as a pretty big stepping stone for all three leads involved.
Video: How’s it look?
As mentioned above, I’d not previously seen the film so I had no idea what to expect or any basis of comparison. But I think two decades of reviewing movies on disc has given me enough experience that I’m fairly confident that I can do this! There seemed to be a lot of grain, but given the film is three decades old, I was willing to give it a pass. The majority of the film takes place indoors with several scenes in dark, dimly-lit nightclubs and bars. Of course, the iconic scene with Michelle Pfeiffer in her red dress looks…amazing. Flesh tones were a bit on the muted side as was the entire film. We get a few choice shots of the Emerald City (Seattle) with detail looking pretty sharp. I’m sure this would be a great candidate for a 4K restoration, but as it stands – this one should pass muster.
Audio: How’s it sound?
I’m a sucker for jazz. I love it. I’ve got jazz playlist on my phone and I listen to it at the gym. Yes, really. I’m also a fan of Dave Grusin and his Oscar-nominated score (this lost to The Little Mermaid). I’d first gained appreciation for Grusin with his work on The Firm and this is more of the same. And if you’re of the same mindset, then the isolated track is right up your alley. That aside, I found the movie a bit on the soft side. Jeff Bridges tends to mumble his lines and he’s the soft-spoken type as well. The track, while not bad, is just not that audio-intensive. While the majority of films are dialogue-driven, this one goes the other way. It’s one that could benefit from a Dolby Atmos mix, but what we’ve got isn’t too shabby.
Supplements: What are the extras?
- Audio Commentary – Writer-Director Steve Kloves is joined by Twilight Time’s Julie Kirgo and Nick Redman. This one is quite the treat. We had the chance to interview both Nick Redman and Julie Kirgo a few years ago. That can be found here. Sadly, Nick Redman passed away a few years back so having this track is a nice tribute to the man. In addition to the detail they provide in the track, it’s relatively new (they mention the live-action Jungle Book movie, so I’d assume this was recorded around 2014-15’is). At any rate, give this one a listen – it’s a winner. (Of note, both the commentaries must be selected from the “Setup” menu, not the “Extras”).
- Audio Commentary – If one track isn’t enough, there’s a second one with Director of Photography Michael Ballhaus. Admittedly, I didn’t listen to this one. But it’s there if you want/need it.
- Isolated Music and Effects Track – If words aren’t your thing, perhaps watching the movie with Dave Grusin’s score is more your style?
- Behind the Scenes Featurettes – Some genuinely “retro” featurettes that focus on the film and the three main stars.
- The Fabulous Baker Boys
- Jeff & Beau Bridges
- Michelle Pfeiffer
- Deleted Scenes – Just over 20 minutes’ worth are included, though they’re not really named or have any context. Given the critical reception the movie has received over the years, I’d say the final product worked out just fine.
- Theatrical Trailer
The Bottom Line
I have to say that I actually liked this film and I’m kicking myself for waiting this long to see it. Granted I was 16 years old when it came out! This new version has smattering of extras, and above average technical merits. And if you don’t want to spend a few hundred dollars on the Twilight Time version – this one is easier on the wallet!