Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Brothers Bloom (2010) Review

The Brothers Bloom
Johnson is a Real Bloomer

I love con man and heist movies, especially when they really get things right. The lesser ones usually pack on a lot of style and crafty visuals but aren't much more than vapid and hollow exercises in style over substance (*cough* 21 *cough*). Don't get me wrong, sometimes these kinds of movies can be enjoyable, but they aren't very memorable. But when a film really takes the time to settle down and give us dimensional characters and credible drama, it comes out as something special. The Grifters is a great example of that something special, a film that takes pride in the art of the con but also serves up a twisty script, whip smart characters, and talented performers. It gives me great pleasure to know that The Brothers Bloom is another successful con-man movie on the same level as The Grifters and other movies of its ilk.

Plot Synopsis: Two brothers, Bloom and Stephan, have been con men all their life. Ever since their childhood they have been hustling people for money and other treasures of value using Stephan's knack for crafting false identities and plot lines for each con. But over time Bloom has become tired of the business and now wants out. One of the reasons is that his entire life is basically a fakery, as he is always playing the main character in Stephan's carefully planned and concocted stories. But Stephan manages to rope Bloom in for one last con before retirement. The con: gain the sympathy of Penelope, a rich, shut-in woman, and get her to transfer a large sum of money. But when Bloom actually becomes romantically attached to Penelope, the stakes are raised and Bloom must decide whether to follow his brother's plan or stop it.


The con-man genre is a tricky one to tackle correctly, but aside from maybe one too many tricks in the final act, The Brothers Bloom finds the right balance between conning the audience and keeping their interest in the story and characters at the same time. The tone of the film is delightfully fun and wacky, considering that director Rian Johnson's last film was the bleak neo-noir Brick. There has an almost comic book-like feel to the movie, with its colorful characters, an origin story, and breezy tone. Johnson's screenplay spits out rapid-fire bursts of witty and funny dialogue with ease, adding to the film's playfulness. For all its stylistic sensibilities though, the film also finds the time to settle down and become dramatic at the appropriate times and enhance the characters. The film's ending works better because of this, and doesn't feel that much like a jarring shift in tone had the movie been comedic all the way through.


The three lead actors, Adrien Brody, Mark Ruffalo, and Rachel Weisz, all give great performances as Bloom, Stephan, and Penelope respectively. Brody and Weisz's relationship is at the heart of the film, and the two have great chemistry together. I really wish Brody would take on more roles in his career because he can be fun to watch but can also be emotional and serious when called upon him. Bloom is tortured not only by his choice between Stephan and Penelope, but also the presence of Diamond Dog, the brothers' old mentor. One of the things that the film could've elaborated on was why Bloom is so uneasy around Dog, and why Stephan is protective when the two are together, because I never really understood what the man did to them as children. Ruffalo looks like he was having a blast on the set, as he is so full of life and energy that he makes Stephan a nice counterpoint to Bloom's brooding nature. Weisz, who hasn't really taken on a comedy role since the Mummy movies, has a knack for acting out quirky and funny characters without having them come off as caricatures. It's fun to watch Penelope's excitement as she discovers new things about the world and its ways.

At the end of the day, The Brothers Bloom is a fun and entertaining take on con-man movies that also has a heart to back it up. Hopefully in the near future we can expect great things from Rian Johnson as he continues to build his career.


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