Leonard Cohen: Bird on a Wire
Palmer's film is that rare concert doc that isn't for established fans only.
There is a scene in "The Fabulous Baker Boys" where Michelle Pfeiffer, wearing a slinky red dress, uncurls on top of a piano while singing "Makin' Whoopee." The rest of the movie is also worth the price of admission. Pfeiffer stars in the film with Jeff and Beau Bridges, who play the halves of a cocktail lounge piano duet. Their act is growing relentlessly more hopeless when they decide to liven things up by hiring a girl singer. The singer is Pfeiffer. Things liven up.
"The Fabulous Baker Boys" is a new version of an old show-biz formula about longtime partners whose relationship is threatened when one of them falls in love with the sexy new singer. "Young Man With a Horn" did a version of this material, and so have lots of other movies, but rarely with such intriguing casting and such a sure hand for the material. There's probably some autobiographical truth lurking beneath the rivalry of the Bridges brothers, old wounds from the 20 years they have both been working in the movies. And Pfeiffer quite simply has one of the roles of a lifetime, as the high-priced call girl who wants to become a low-priced lounge singer.
The movie takes place in that shadowy area of show business where people make a living, even a fairly decent living, but they always seem to be marking time. Night after night, the Baker Boys sit down at their twin pianos in the lounges of fading Seattle supper clubs and pretentious motels and go through an act they could do in their sleep. The audience, drunks in search of melancholy, doesn't even bother to listen.
The problem is, the Baker Boys are getting dated. They're doing tired material and arrangements that sound like elevator music.