Steve Kloves’ impressive, highly entertaining directorial debut centers on the Baker boys (played by real-life brothers Jeff and Beau Bridges), siblings who have a two-piano act that plays at Seattle’s downbeat cocktail lounges.
Though working together, the two brothers represent opposite types. Jake (Jeff Bridges) is a bitter loner whose ambition is to be a jazz musician, not a hack. In contrast, Frank (Beau Bridges) is a family man content to spend his days giving piano lessons and his nights doing cheery canned repartee and playing pop tunes with his brother.
The only thing the loser brothers agree about is that their act needs some new blood, new energy to jazz it up, since they don’t get many engagements and some of the existing ones are cancelled. Enter Susie Diamond (Michelle Pfeiffer), a tough, cynical former hooker, whose presence immediately revives the act, but also complicates matters when Jeff falls for her.
As writer, Kloves is responsible for sharp and biting dialogue, and he is also good as a helmer, considering that this is his first feature, creating the right mood and atmopshere for each scene. Kloves has also coaxed strong performances from the central trio of thesps, particularly Pfeiffer, who has one show-stopping number (“Makin’ Whoopee”) that she sings atop a piano in a sexy red dress. It’s an indelible image, courtesy of the brilliant cinematographer Michael Ballhaus (Oscar-nominated).
Jake Baker (Jeff Bridges)
Frank Baker (Beau Bridges)
Susie Diamond (Michelle Pfeiffer)
Nina (Ellie Raab)
Lloyd (Xander Berkeley)Charlie (Dakin Matthews)
Ray (Ken Lerner)
Henry (Albert Hall)
Girl in bed (Terri Treas)
Vince Nancy (Gregory Itzin)
You can spot Jennifer Tilly (then better known as sister of Meg) as a ditzy singer, rendering an awkward version of “Candy Man.”
Steve Kloves would go on to script the “Harry Potter” film franchise.
Oscar Nominations: 4
Actress: Michelle Pfeiffer
Cinematography: Michael Ballhaus
Original Score: David Grusin
Film Editing: William Steinnkamp
Oscar Awards: None
“Fabulous Baker Boys” lost in each of its four nominated categories. In 1989, Michelle Pfeiffer swept most of the critics kudos for her fabulous performance, but the winner was Jessica Tandy in “Driving Miss Daisy”; the sentimental factor worked in Tandy’s favor, plus it’s always easier to win if you performance is contained in a Best Picture nominee, as Tandy’s was in “Miss Daisy,” which won Best Picture.
The Cinematography Oscar went to vet Freddie Francis for “Glory”; the Editing Oscar went to David Brenner and Joe Hutshing for “Born on the Fourth of July”; and the Original Score Oscar was won by Alan Menken for “The Little Mermaid.”