Jeff Bridges did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Jack Baker in The Fabulous Baker Boys.
Jeff Bridges plays the younger of the Baker boys, the older brother Frank (Beau Bridges) acts as the manager for both and takes a far more enthusiastic approach when it comes to the actual performances. The film begins with Jack basically already in a lull. Bridges has a bit of a challenge right from the start in that Jack is not exactly the most lively presence right from the start. Bridges in no way tries to falsely energizes the role, but instead plays the part accordingly. Bridges though manages to do well in the part by just vividly realizing the state that Jack is in when the film begins. Bridges portrays Jack as a man in problematic state of indifference from the beginning. He has his one night stands with women which Bridges portrays as basically just part of routine. The same certainly goes for when he is performing with his brother on stage where Bridges shows that Jack is just going through the motions of what is required of him, but there is not a hint of life in the routine for him. He just plays what he needs to and contributes the minimum of what is required of him to complete the act.
Bridges though is interesting the way he creates the state Jack is in because even though it is not especially pleasant for him it technically is far from horrible for him. What Bridges conveys so well is the certain discontent of a man who's not quite happy with his life, but he's also basically come to accept it for what it is. Within that though I like how Bridges finds a bit of room for Jack not to be as dour as he might have been otherwise. There are moments where Jack is spending time with his old dog, or with the neighbors daughter who looks to him as a father figure where there does seem to be something there for Jack. What's interesting though is that Bridges does not obviously have these moments where Jack becomes more open and outgoing or anything like that. Bridges rather very effectively carries just a certain ease and warmth in these scenes that very quietly shows that there is some things in his life that he enjoys. For the most part though he is forced just to continue through his routine but eventually even the Fabulous Baker Boys act becomes even a little too old for the crowd they play for leaving the brothers to take on aspiring singer/ former call girl Susie Diamond (Michelle Pfeiffer).
Her addition does rejuvenate their careers but Bridges does well not to show any sort of immediate change in Jack, as at first he just seems to keep going along the way things were. He does quietly begin to bring some life back into some of the performances, though Bridges carefully keeps it in a muted way. There is rarely a time where Jack still seems to absolutely accept anything, and Bridges maintains that even when they are doing well Jack is still obviously not exactly leaving up to his own dream by constantly following his brother's very specific instructions. What Bridges portrays though is that Jack is more than anything energized by Suzie's presence, as Bridges only really shows this other side to Jack when he is interacting with her or reacting to her. Bridges still keeps it low key but quite palatable. At the same though he keeps Jack as almost too opposing ends because there does seem to be some happiness there with Susie, he also portrays Jack having even worse moments of moodiness when interacting with his brother. Bridges never takes Jack wholly out of that hole he has been in from the beginning.
Bridges and Pfeiffer have an unusual chemistry together technically speaking. For most of it they don't speak directly about it but the two really say more than enough in their glances between one another. This is especially true in the "Makin' Whoopee' where there is something so sensual about the two together that it almost a dance even though all Bridges does in the scene is play the piano. This even goes so far that the fully romantic scenes between Susie and Jack are silent yet the tension so to speak in the moment could not be more keenly felt. Of course this leads to the last act where Jack frankly acts like jerk. This could have potentially fallen flat as these scenes sometimes can feel quite forced, but Bridges's work makes it work. A reason for this is that Bridges never has Jack change completely with Susie, and is convincing in that he shows how Jack just can't fall out of the routine of his life. His one night stands have been meaningless so again that's all that he treats as since that's all he's ever been use to. Of course Bridges is great in how he shows that now though the routine seems to grate on him more than ever.
Bridges makes the final scenes of the film believable because he's always been honest with the character making his final transition feel particularly earned. What Bridges presents it as is not a frustration that changes Jack, but rather shows that Jack finally taking action is what relieves his frustrations. I particularly love one scene where he visits his brother after the two of them have had a terrible fight. The two of them finally remember their old times and it allows Jack to think about the fact that he did not always hate it. They even go so far as to sing a quick song together which is a wonderful scene for both Bridges as you witness the old days of Baker boys in their faces and in their voices. In that Bridges naturally progresses Jack to finally lose that dourness, although importantly he still does keep him as the low key guy Jack happens to be. This leads to his last scene with Susie which is a fairly understated reunion. There really is not a moment where there's the dramatic declaration of love. The two's fantastic chemistry comes in again and their final reconciliation simply feels just right. The same is true for Bridges's whole performance which always feels genuine and gives complexity to a character that in the wrong hands could have been just one note of gloom.