Frank and Jack Baker are professional musicians who play small clubs. They play schmaltzy music and have never needed a day job. Times are changing and dates are becoming more difficult to get so they interview female singers. They finally decide on Susie Diamond, a former 'escort' who needs some refinement, but the act begins to take off again. While the act is now successful, both Frank and Jack have problems with their life on the road. Susie becomes the agent that makes them re-evaluate where they are going, and how honest they have been with each other.
One of the true motion picture gems from the late 1980s, 'The Fabulous Baker Boys' finally gets a Blu-ray release with this Twilight Time limited edition. Having not seen the movie since its laserdisc days, I wondered if I'd still enjoy it as much as I did long ago and if the film would still hold up today. It does. It's a wonderful little story that is enhanced by three of the best actors you'll find anywhere, two of which (like their characters) happen to be brothers. Like the numbers performed in the film, it seems as if 'The Fabulous Baker Boys' is a timeless piece of entertainment.
Jeff and Beau Bridges star as lounge act piano players Jack and Frank Baker, respectively, who – as the movie opens – are already at the low point of what has been a long career. They're not getting the crowds they once did (if they indeed ever did) and Jack in particular seems to just be going through the motions each night on stage with his older brother. In fact, things have gotten so bad, clubs are actually paying them not to perform.
After 31 years of making it on their own, Frank tells Jack that he thinks it's time to add a female singer to their act. Following a day's worth of horrible auditions, the boys finally get their gal in the form of Suzie Diamond (Michelle Pfeiffer), who quickly draws the crowds and proves to be the star of the trio, rather than just an addition to help the declining Baker Boys.
The addition of Diamond to the act also starts to cause even more tension between the brothers, as lifelong issues and resentment that they never really dealt with start to bubble to the surface. For Jack, it's the fact that he's the more talented of the two, but never really chased after his dreams – instead being loyal to his brother and their act. It's also resulted in him living a life of solitude, with his only relationships being a long string of one-night stands and his only friendships being with his black Labrador and a young girl who lives in the apartment above his. For Frank, it’s the fact that he's handled the business end of the partnership throughout the years and feels as if his brother has never contributed more to their relationship than just showing up on time and performing.
The movie was written and directed by Steve Kloves, in only his second movie at the helm and, perhaps more surprisingly, the last movie he's directed to date (don't worry, though, he keep himself busy writing the screenplays for all but one of the Harry Potter films, as well as the critically acclaimed 'Wonder Boys' (which still needs a Blu-ray release!)). His screenplay here is a mix of witty banter and serious drama, while his direction does a remarkable job of balancing the two. Of course, it doesn't hurt that the two brothers in the movie are brothers in real life, bringing a natural chemistry to the screen that is so wonderful, you don't want to see the film come to an end.
As good as the Bridges boys are, the real star is Ms. Pfeiffer, who won a Golden Globe for her performance here, as well as a Best Actress Oscar nomination. Her portrayal of Suzie is of a woman that is both tough and venerable at the same time, and her show-stopping performance on top of that piano about halfway through the film is undoubtedly one of the sexiest, sultriest things ever to be captured on celluloid.
'The Fabulous Baker Boys' is far from a conventional film. It doesn't depend on the traditional tropes of movie storytelling. There are no bad guy here. No real obstacles (other than their own stubbornness) for the characters to overcome. No happy ending or, to be honest, much of an ending at all. Yet the movie works. And it's sure nice to see them performing again, up on stage in high-def for the first time.
The Blu-Ray: Vital Disc Stats
'The Fabulous Baker Boys' strike up a tune on Blu-ray in this limited edition (3,000 copies) release from Twilight Time. The 50GB dual-layer disc in housed inside a clear Elite keepcase, which also holds a color eight-page booklet that features an essay by Julie Kirgo about the movie. There are no front-loaded trailers on the Blu-ray, whose menu contains the same image as the box cover (slightly to the left of the screen), with menu selections on the lower right side of the screen.
The Blu-ray in this release is region free.
The biggest disappointment here is that Twilight Time hasn't done much to clean up the presentation of the movie. There's still a lot of dirt and debris on the print, and even the occasional intrusion of a vertical line here and there (including one during Michelle Pfeiffer's famous scene on top of the piano). Another problem is the movie can be pretty soft-looking at times, particularly during its dark, smoky club scenes, as the black levels here aren't particularly strong.
The good news is that Twilight Time (or more accurately, 20th Century Fox, who provides the transfer to them) hasn't tried to over-sharpen the image or use excessive DNR and seems to have gotten the color timing perfect for this film – at least in comparison with its prior home video versions. Also, despite some softness, details are remarkably good, and particularly noticeable in outdoor scenes or scenes that have cinematography where backgrounds are in focus. There's still a noticeable amount of grain in every shot, so the presentation maintains a very film-like look to it.
In terms of glitches, in addition to the obvious dirt still present, there's also slight motion jitter to the presentation, primarily noticeable during the opening credits and when text appears on the screen. It's not as bad as I've seen on other titles, but it is there.
Despite some problems, this is easily the best this movie has looked on home video and the fact that its free from any major issues like aliasing, banding, or noise should make fans of the movie happy (if not necessarily thrilled) with the video quality.
The primary audio here is an English 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio stereo track that sounds pretty good overall. Despite being limited to stereo (with all sounds coming from one's right and left front speakers), there's a nice clarity and distinction to both the dialogue and ambient noises, and – most importantly – the music in the film is nicely rendered here. There are also no obvious glitches with the audio, which is crisp and without any hint of muddiness to it.
In addition to the 2.0 lossless main track, this Blu-ray also offers up an Isolated Music & Effects Track, which is presented also presented in 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio. For those wondering, the isolated track does include the vocals of the songs in the movie.
Subtitles are available in English SDH.
One of the best movies from the 1980s, 'The Fabulous Baker Boys' finally makes its Blu-ray debut with this limited edition Twilight Time release. While it's a shame 20th Century Fox didn't think enough of their movie to do their own mass release of this title (and perhaps give the title a much-deserved restoration), fans of the movie shouldn't be too displeased with what they get here, as the A/V quality is decent (if not top-notch), and the bonus materials are worth a look/listen. For those who have never seen the movie, it's definitely worth the blind buy. For those that have, I'm guessing you already have a copy on your shelf. Recommended.