Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Michelle Pfeiffer in The Fabulous Baker Boys

Michelle Pfeiffer received her second Oscar nomination for playing Susie Diamond, a former call-girl and a singer with the Baker brothers in the movie The Fabulous Baker Boys. It's almost 100% sure that the race in 1989 was between Tandy and Pfeiffer, they were pretty much neck and neck. Tandy had the sentimentality on her side and Pfeiffer was a huge star back then. I think she did not get much less votes than Tandy after all, but a lot of people are quite devastated because of this loss.

The Fabulous Baker Boys is quite an average, but quite entertaining movie. I think that it's pretty overrated, though I still liked it. I am very fond of Jeff Bridges in general, so he was an important draw for me. Although he was quite good here, I often felt that his acting was a bit forced and yet undercooked. His brother Beau was equally good, but he did not blow my socks off, either. That's it. One of my (actually two) favorite things about this movie is the brilliant music. First of all, the great songs, second the actual score by Dave Grusin. I could listen it on and on.

And the other thing is Michelle Pfeiffer, who's quite simply irresistable here, giving probably her best and most famous performance. It's no wonder that people think that she should have won: her performance is a true standout of her pretty average movie. The whole screenplay is a bit flawed and not very accurate, but the part of Susie is brilliantly written. I felt that the film was just a reason to show Pfeiffer and let her shine, which is quite great.

Her first scene itself makes quite an impression and really sets the tone of her whole performance: Susie is yelling and swearing because of her heels. Susie is quite weary, sarcastic, extremely impolite and a bit full of herself. But when she begins singing, my goodness, I don't think that there's anyone who's not charmed by her instantly. The funny thing is that she doesn't do that much, she simply relies on her presence and singing voice (both brilliant and extremely strong).

Michelle mixes the comedy and the drama quite well. Actually, I don't think that I could call it comedy, as her remarks are rather sarcastic and you can feel how weary and bitter this woman really is. Her experiences as an "escort" really made her tough and therefore wants to keep the distance. Her cold irony toward Beau Bridges' character is quite hilarious and I love the way she delivers those lines ("It's got more hair than you" and things like that). Susie is extremely outspoken, she doesn't like beating around the bush and this just makes the audience love her more. She just says what everyone feels, but do not dare to say. She's really the "what can I lose?" type.

As I have already said, her singing is just magical. I've heard that Madonna was supposed to play Susie, but I don't think that she could've made her as vibrant and brilliant as Michelle did. I mean it's so natural and very lifelike when she lies down on the piano in a flaming red dress, which you really want to rip off her. There's so much sexuality and attractiveness coming from her that it almost makes you speechless. She never shows anything, but lets you visualize everything perfectly. In short: who could resist her in the scene when she's on the stage with Jeff Bridges (and there's brilliant chemistry between the two)?

The highlight of Michelle's whole performance was a long monologue after the New Year's Eve party at the hotel. She's a bit drunk and opens up to Jack about her previous "escorting" experiences at other hotels. It was one of the most heartbreaking moments I have ever seen on-screen. I loved that Michelle did not work for the effect of it and rather held herself back and by this she created an incredibly realistic scene. She shows an unbelievable amount of emotions: bitterness, sadness, hope, passion, disappointment and after that the atmosphere is so damn sexual that it almost sets the screen on fire. And their kissing is so dazzling that you can feel that you're a part of their "act".

But Michelle also showed how cheeky Susie becomes after success and wants to have much more part in picking places. She leaves the band eventually and leaves Jack. People love to praise her big monologue about emptiness and there's a reason: she could have made it really theatrical and over-the-top to win the sympathy of the viewers, but she made a wisest decision to make it much more believable. She was really upsetting and devastating.

Her strength in this movie becomes really obvious when she's not there toward the end: I just missed her presence so much. Thankfully, she returns in the end and that short scene is just excellent: she acts embarrased and she so brilliantly breaks the tension when starts to sing that funny little jingle. It's so funny and sad at the same time.

So after all I can say that I can understand what people see in this performance: it's brilliant, strong, powerful, sexy, charming, vibrant, sad and loveable. She shows so many emotions and faces of this exciting character and created something very memorable, which continues to impress the viewers. She could have done it more easily, but it was brilliant the way it was. Easy rating.
So what do you think? Any predictions now?


Anonymous said...

Surprising, but not surprised because I'm glad it gets appreciated :)

Anonymous said...
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Louis Morgan said...

She has a chance to be first but I will stick with Tandy at the moment.

joe burns said...

I liked her at first, but looking back on it, something seems to be missing. Right now, I'd give her a four.

dinasztie said...

Joe: I was like that for the first time. I loved it and she was even my pick, but she faded in my memory. Right now I was so mesmerized that I looked it from a different perspective. It was an experience like Garland.

Pfan313 said...

Hey! Very interesting post. It's really refreshing to read the opinion of a neutral person (who isn't a big Pfeiffer fan).
I truly believe that this movie is one of her best, though. Now, I haven't seen 'Driving miss Daisy', but it has and always will upset me that Michelle didn't win that year. She was outstanding!

Anonymous said...

Great performance in an extremely average film, but Tandy was miles better.