Jeff and Beau Bridges in The Fabulous Baker Boys: Trevor Johnston investigates. Plus Guiseppe
INDEX: 17 LISTINGS: WEEK ONE 23 WEEK TWO 24
Tornatore‘s Cinema Paradiso.
In their first movie together Jeff and Beau Bridges star as piano duo The Fabulous Baker Boys, whose personal and professional routine is shaken up by torchy songstress
Michelle Pfeiffer. as Trevor Johnston discovers.
‘We‘ve always wanted to work together. but it was a matter of finding a story that was better than the gimmick.’ says JeffBridges ofhis first big screen appearance opposite elder brother Beau in The Fabulous Baker Boys. a tale of slowly wakening passion and gradually breaking dreams amidst everyday cabaret people. Senior ofthe siblings by some eight years. it's the fatherly figure of Beau who plays Frank Baker. the stolid family man of an ivory-tinkling pair of entertainers: while ever-handsome Jeff Bridges is the younger Jack. a melancholy rake and habitual womaniser whose talent as a jazz player is underused by the act’s treadmill repertoire. pumping out pap to the chicken-in-a-basket throng.
Financial fortunes on a long-term downturn however. The Fab Bakers decide that the addition ofa female vocalist is their only surefire path to renewed profitability. and lo the worldweary presence ofsmoky chanteuse Susie Diamond. played by Oscar-nominated Michelle Pfeiffer. soon makes their sparkling trio the biggest success of their careers. Before long though. slowburning romance strikes between Jack and Susie. a smouldering onstage cavort to the strains of Makin' leoopee followed by a kiss-up ofthermonuclear fervour — one personal and professional turmoil. Subsumed for years into the compromised working relationship. the brothers‘ differing needs and ambitions burst to the surface in a display of highly-charged fraternal tension.
The movie makes an evocative debut for young writer/director Steve Kloves. threaded with tartly knowing hard-boiled rcpartee that gives the ménage a trois a Hawksian 40s feel. retains the feeling of lives lived and hopes quietly suffocated by the decades that‘s rare for a Hollywood movie. And also. it has to be said. rather uncomfortable to approach during a press conference. So instead
of traversing Tlie l’aliulous Baker Boys" rolling emotional terrain we get the bantcring Bridges brothers‘ roadshow. as featured on ll'ogan. Their goodtime barrage of anecdotal fluff and amiable human interest material (‘we had to actually learn the exact bars of music where Steve wanted our faces and hands in the same shot') won‘t of course look out of place reproduced beside the animal courage stories and showbiz tittle-tattle in the pages of the British regional press. But if you wanted to learn more about the acting approaches of two extremely talented American screen artists and their work with an inpressivc array of film-making talent (lluston. (’oppola. (‘imino. Bogdanovieh. l.umet. et all then you were to be disappointed. I
What was apparent though. is that .leff Bridges exudes the same relaxed appeal and laidback charm in person as he does on screen. While ol’ Beau came across as the likeable avuncular type. quite matured from the engaging naif he plavcd in winning late Sixties efforts like Norman ' Jewison‘s ('lzu‘aeo. ('liuaeo. a portrait of Hollywood wag Ben l lecht as a young man; .leff smouldered in black leather. kept his answers succinct. ran his hands through his hair and was generally cool as(‘lint. I'm not sure ifthe likesof Starman.Jagged lirlge. and Tueker have in the last few years made him a Star in the mould of. say. Harrison l-‘ord or Mel (iibson. but he's probably as near chic as punter-consciousness gets.
Jeff's higher profile these days ~ hell well even
i on Frili Marc/z. Seeﬁlm listingsfor/alltie/ails.
call him a ‘sex symbol‘ - is a reward ofsorts for his sterling work in any number of high-quality. small-scale Seventies milestones. He‘s been on the case from way back. with genuine cult material like lvan Passer's dark buddy movie ('uIIer's Way and William Richert's extraordinary Kennedy parable ll’iruer Kills the mark of an actor always willing to extend himself rather than go for the dumb blockbuster shot. That’s him opposite punchdrunk casualty Stacy Keach in John lluston‘s deep and sad 1972 boxing picture l’a! ( 'in with its chilling final freeze-out. That's him growing up in grainy black and white. gaining his first Oscar nomination as gormless hick with a heart Duane Jackson in Peter Bogdanovich's momentous The Last Picture Show. the follow-up to which. Tl’t’rlst’lllt’. taken from novelist Larry McMurtry's sequel and bringing back (‘ybill Shepherd and Bogdanovich. will be out later this year.
In the meantime. he‘s heaping deserved praise on the Baker Boys“ cameraman Michael Ballhaus. whose unfussy lighting recalls the elegiac clarity ofan lidward l lopper painting. and its young auteur Steve Kloves. ‘l le has such a clear idea of what he wanted for the look and feel ofthe film. In terms ofthe acting. he took me aside and told me not to feel an obligation to the audience to entertain them. but just to play it real and straight.‘
The Fabulous Baker Boys (/5) opens arr/1e ()(leons in Glasgow and Lam/mm}: mull/1e l '( 'ls
The List 23 March — 5 April 199015