The Fabulous Baker Boys Steve Kloves

The late ’80s were awash with vaguely classy, sweater-clad movies that offered a yuppified love of show tunes, jazz standards and lounge music. When Harry Met Sally is one and The Fabulous Baker Boys is another, though this latter film surprises by looking good and trying its best to be about something. The Baker Boys are suburban dad Frank (Beau Bridges) and shiftless lady-killer Jack (Jeff Bridges), brothers who’ve been paying the rent/mortgage with their long-running two-piano lounge act. Unfortunately, the dual piano gimmick is getting stale, forcing them to bring in singer Susie Diamond (Michelle Pfeiffer) to spice things up. Does she ever: when Frank has to bail on a New Year’s Eve concert, Susie and Jack a) update the set list without their third member’s consent and b) start a romance that can’t possibly end well. There’s a certain disappointment in writer-director Steve Kloves’s inability to take serious risks but the film still manages to go places where most of its brethren do not. Not only is Kloves handy with a long take (partly thanks to Fassbinder’s DP, Michael Ballhaus) but he manages to sympathise with all three of his heroes no matter how much they play at cross-purposes. Just when you figure that Jack is the hipster hero and Frank is the hopeless square, the director complicates and deepens that relationship so you don’t know where you stand. And Pfeiffer turns in a surprisingly nuanced performance in a role that might have been blown off by most other actresses. Baker Boys is no masterpiece but it’s still a solid renter that might pick you up and won’t let you down. (MGM / Fox)