Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
USA, 1989. Gladden Entertainment, Mirage, Tobis. Screenplay by Steve Kloves. Cinematography by Michael Ballhaus. Produced by Mark Rosenberg, Paula Weinstein, Courtney Silberberg. Music by Dave Grusin. Production Design by Jeffrey Townsend. Costume Design by Lisa Jensen. Film Editing by William Steinkamp.
Wonderful character-driven drama has very little plot but is laden with atmosphere. Beau and Jeff Bridges play fraternal piano players whose gigs are growing slim in number and whose act is getting stale. They decide that the best way to spiff the party up is to hire a singer, and after a series of painful auditions they come upon sultry, sexy Susie Diamond (Michelle Pfeiffer). Susie has a potty mouth and a volcanic temper, but when she sings she can light an entire room on fire. Steve Kloves does a great job of making all the little moments in the lives of these near-burnouts feel so interesting and important, especially whenever Pfeiffer squares off with either of her co-stars. The photography by Michael Ballhaus brings the smoky world of nightclubs to life with beauty and intensity, as does David Grusin’s jazzy score. Pfeiffer does her own singing, the most memorable highlight being her crooning “Makin’ Whoopee” in a red dress whilst lying seductively across a grand piano. She has said since making this film that it is her favourite of all the roles she’s played and it’s easy to see why. (Interestingly enough, the role was originally offered to Madonna, who turned it down).
Academy Award Nominations: Best Actress (Michelle Pfeiffer); Best Cinematography; Best Film Editing; Best Original Score
Golden Globe Award: Best Actress-Drama (Michelle Pfeiffer)
Nomination: Best Original Score