(Re: Gimme and F. See the OZ column
"Those cheerleaders in the red uniforms are part of the Falcon
Dance Squad which is composed of eight credited actresses. Most have
little or no other credits but Kevin-Bacon-babe Emily Longstreth looks
like the cheerleader with the long blonde hair sitting on the bench,
and choreographer Robin Antin may be the brunette holding her
pom-poms. Still have no idea who the topless ones are."
I've noted many times on these pages that the entire British film
industry now seems to have only two templates:
(1) Gritty urban gangster dramas and dramedies with a touch of
(2) Offbeat and quirky, but ultimately warm comedies about
eccentric provincials engaged in a struggle to be accepted for their
participation in unusual or unexpected activities.
The Baker, apparently troubled by ambivalence, is both!
A professional assassin runs into some problems with "the
corporation," and is advised by his mentor to lie low until further
instructions. He is provided with an address in the Welsh countryside
where he is to blend in with the locals and attract no attention. For
reasons never clearly established, the mob's Welsh hideout is a
charming little high street bakery shop which has fallen into
disrepair. The hitman decides to make lemon out of this lemonade, or
rather to make bread out of this yeast, and goes about disguising
himself as the town's long-awaited baker, Milo Shakespeare. There are
a couple of reasons why his disguise fails: (1) he has no idea how to
created edible baked goods; (2) a local lad sees him burying his
weapons and digs them up. It is not long before every single person in
the village knows that their baker is really a professional killer,
but he does not know that they know. That's the rather contrived comic
premise. The way it plays out is that the people in town think they
are walking into the bakery and using a secret code to have their
neighbors killed over petty spats, while our Mr. Shakespeare thinks
that they are simply ordering custom-baked sweets.
Meanwhile, the lad who found the cache of weapons really hopes to
find a route out of his dead-end town, and hires on to be the baker's
assistant, a job which he conceives to consist of rubbing out fellow
villagers, but which really consists of fixing up the dilapidated shop
and learning add decorative frosting to birthday cakes. There's also a love interest, a dedicated local
veterinarian who seems to be the only one in town unaware of the
baker's real profession. Finally, there's a dramatic conflict in the
form of a rival hitman who has been assigned by the corporation to
remove the baker from their rolls, so to speak.
I mentioned at the beginning of these comments that it's both an
urban gangster film and a comedy about eccentric provincials, but
that's only true in principal. In fact, it's really just the latter,
and of that genre a second-tier representative. Although it all plays
out predictably, there are a few laughs along the way. Surprisingly,
the film's two best scenes are musical:
The first is a funeral for the fishmonger's foul termagant of a
wife. (Her death was necessary to make the plot work. The modest
proprietor of Cod Almighty wanted his wife killed and she died after
her husband made a bakery order, thus leading the townspeople to think
that the baker offed her in response to an order for custom sweets.)
The villagers get together at the wake to perform a robust rendition
of her favorite song ... that traditional funeral dirge, "Volare."
The other is a sex scene between the baker and the veterinarian,
which is played out for energetic laughs in the manner of the famous
sex scene between Jeff Goldblum and Emma Thompson in The Tall Guy. The
lovers smear one another with bakery accoutrements like jam, cream and
flour, while they make furious love to the beat of a famous calypso
song, Shake Sonora.
The British critics raked this film over the coals. The Guardian
scored it their minimum 1/5 and the BBC was not much more generous with a 2/5 score
and a dismissive bakery-related Shalitism ("a hastily cooked souffle"). While
that The Baker is not a genre masterpiece, and that its comic ideas have been
done better elsewhere, I don't believe it should be rated
that low. While it is true that some of the villagers are annoyingly idiosyncratic without
any good comic purpose, the star (Damian Lewis, the director's
brother) has a sympathetic screen presence and a solid sense of comic timing.
It's not a film you will want to own, but you should found it a
pleasant enough time-killer if quirky provincial Brit comedies are
your bag, baby.