New-Release Tuesday: The Fabulous Baker Boys

Past the Popcorn provides South King Media with exclusive reviews of Theatrical and Home Video entertainment. We aim to dig just a little deeper than the surface of what we watch.

Why is this movie so hard to find? YouTube doesn’t even have a decent trailer.

If you want the DVD, be prepared to shell out $50. The Blu-ray disc is $56, cheapest you will find.

It’s not included with any of the mainline streaming services.

WTH?

Once upon a time, someone got the brilliant idea to cast Beau and Jeff Bridges as a musical novelty act—The Fabulous Baker Boys. Jack and Frank Baker (Jeff and Beau, respectively) play seedy luau bars, performing duets on facing grand pianos.

Sounds thrilling, doesn’t it?

Well, that’s merely the setup—and Jack, in his perpetually miffed ennui, is equally aware of the dullness of his artistic life. Family man Frank is just happy going through the paces for extra income.

Eventually, though, they decide they need to spice up the routine by adding a singer. Enter Susie Diamond. Or, more importantly for audiences, enter Michelle Pfeiffer. Oh, my.

Susie Diamond not only sparks the Baker Boys to new heights, her character—and the chemistry between Pfeiffer and the younger Bridges—turns this movie red hot. The storyline ends up being two things: a captivating romance, and a moving drama about the biblically epic and classic dynamic between warring, loving brothers. Writer-director Kloves, who would go on to script the entire Harry Potter series—yes, that’s right—struck gold not only with this story and casting but the film in general, which earned 4 Oscar nominations.

And even though this 1989 release was legendary in cinema circles, it only earned $18M during its theatrical run. After 30 years, it’s still brilliantly entertaining, and deserving of more attention than it gets.

Besides the fact that several scenes in this Seattle-based story were shot within view of my downtown office window, and that I actually got to say hello to Pfeiffer as I passed by the shoot on my way to lunch one day, what has lasted for me is the portrayal of the relationship between Jack Baker and Susie Diamond. Whether Jack and Susie end up together is immaterial; what matters is that these two badly damaged ships pass in the night just at the point when they can be the precise help that the other needs—and they are both brave enough to acknowledge that they need help, and to accept the help offered.

It’s Hollywood Hokum, of course, because Pfeiffer and Bridges are both impossibly beautiful, talented people—but nonetheless, these are the kinds of tools that artists use to get our attention and tell us important things. So be it.

If I have to watch Bridges and Pfeiffer so that Kloves can tell me to be grateful for the magic moments that have passed through my life—even if they slipped through my hands, even if I got exactly what I needed rather than what I wanted—I can deal with that.

The Fabulous Baker Boys is included with HBO Go, which is offering a week’s free trial as an add-on to your Hulu subscription. You can also add HBO to your Amazon Prime subscription.