The titular brothers begin compatible, with an affection and admiration for one another which is clearly visible. For 31 years, the “Fabulous Baker Boys” get by as a piano duo, playing it out seven nights a week, fifty-ish weeks a year. As dates and gigs become ever harder to come by though, the two decide to find a singer to join their act. After a string of spectacularly awful auditions, (perhaps the most humourous episode of the film) the boys settle on former escort Susie, a “diamond” in the rough in every sense of the word.
The group quickly picks up steam again, but new problems begin to arise; with Susie joining the Baker mix, the subtle differences between the two brothers become increasingly apparent. Frank, the elder brother, is responsible; he’s the one out there making the bookings, very content with performing “Feelings” for the umpteenth time if it allows the cheques to continue rolling in. Jack however, easily the more talented half of the duo, is greatly dissatisfied with life on the road. And in the thick of it all is sensational Suzie Diamond, arguably the cool and enigmatic glue that holds the film together.
An interesting aspect I especially enjoyed, (and, I believe, a few fellow moviegoers were a little taken aback by) was the time period of the film (or rather, the supposed lack of one). One of the most wonderful things about The Fabulous Baker Boys is definitely the movie’s plausible ambiguity. For the most part, we’re almost certain we’re watching the 80s; the film certainly possesses the look and feel to get us all pumped up of nostalgia for the decade. Nevertheless, the smoky sultriness hints at the gorgeous noir of the mid 20th century, and the blend which results is a terribly satisfying one.
The basic plot of the film, a cordial but frequently strained familial relationship pushed over the edge by the arrival of a third person, has certainly been done before. What makes the movie special though is its subtle realism in portraying the original relationship. In this sense, The Fabulous Baker Boys could just as easily have been featured as a tale of two people. Perhaps the most obvious reason for this is the pairing of real-life brothers Jeff and Beau Bridges, an inherent authenticity which provides the basis for a truly unique relationship.
It could be further argued that the complexities and almost contradictory qualities the brothers possess mirror the clash of time mentioned in the earlier paragraph; it seems odd, even a little ridiculous at first, but we sooner or later realise how well they work together. Like the suspension of time though, we also know that it is an ultimately exhausting feat, and to try to sustain it forever would be unwise.
As for the film in relation to the purpose of this article, the trio of Susie and the Baker Boys is, undoubtedly, the most interesting and important aspect of the movie. In particular, there is a scene often terribly overlooked by most viewers that I feel best sums up the bonds between the three characters.
The episode takes place on Christmas Eve, and the three have only each other for company (something which we have come to accept as fairly typical). Under a radiant moon and a twinkling jazz standard, Frank and Susie dance, while Frank reminisces with his younger brother about their childhood. There is then a reversal of roles; Jack takes over from his brother as Susie’s dancing partner, while Susie and Frank chatter away about some other subject. The three could not really be described as close (half the time one cannot even be sure if they actually like each other). Yet, there exists a deep connection between them, an irreversible interweaving of three lives. Through this scene, a seemingly unremarkable one, this central idea is showcased beautifully.