Thursday, May 14, 2009

Movie Review: The Brothers Bloom

The Brothers Bloom ***
Directed By:
Rian Johnson.
Written By: Rian Johnson.
Starring: Rachel Weisz (Penelope Stamp), Adrien Brody (Bloom), Mark Ruffalo (Stephen), Rinko Kikuchi (Bang Bang), Robbie Coltrane (The Curator), Nora Zehetner (Rose), Maximilian Schell (Diamond Dog).

The Brothers Bloom is a highly enjoyable caper film from director Rian Johnson. Johnson’s first film was Brick, a high school noir where the characters talked like they were out of a Dashiell Hammett novel. That film was a complete original, and marked one of the best debut films of the decade. The Brothers Bloom is no less stylized than Brick was, but it is not nearly as original. Given a larger budget to do what he wants, Johnson seems to want to become a Wes Anderson clone. The resulting movie, while remaining very entertaining, isn’t quite up to the level that Johnson set for himself.

The movie is about two brothers. Bloom (Adrian Brody) and Stephen (Mark Ruffalo). Shunted around from foster home to foster home as children, they had to learn to look after themselves. Stephen started learning how to con people, and discovered he had knack for it. His plans are carefully plotted out to the smallest of details. Bloom discovers that he is good at being the heart - the one in the plan who has to win people over and make them trust him. But he has grown tired of living this life. He wants an “unwritten” life, so he quits. But Stephen is able to convince him to do “one final con”.

The mark is Penelope (Rachel Weisz), an eccentric heiress, whose family is all gone. She spends her time alone on her vast New Jersey estate, collecting hobbies. Essentially, what this means, is that she’s by herself, and teaches herself to do whatever catches her fancy. Stephen thinks this will make her an easy mark. All Bloom has to do is get her to fall for him, and they’ll be able to get $1 million from her. Bloom is able to do this, but finds himself falling for Penelope himself, much to Stephen’s chagrin.

The con requires the trio, along with the brothers assistant Bang Bang (Rinko Kikuchi) to go on a round the world odyssey. The details of the con are almost needlessly complex, and would take up the rest of this review if I tried to explain it. But it doesn’t really matter. The con itself is an excuse for the movie to set itself in gorgeous locations throughout the world, and Johnson makes good use of these locations. The film is gorgeous to look at.

What really makes the film work however are the performances. Rachel Weisz gives one of her best performances as Penelope, the almost hopelessly innocent, na├»ve mark. She is almost remarkably sweet, and rather unrealistically well adjusted, considering she has spent most of her life by herself (she reminds me of another Penelope, the one played by Christina Ricci last year). Weisz is all wide eyed charm, and it’s easy to see by Bloom falls for her. Brody for his part fits his role like a glove. As a veteran of Wes Anderson’s The Darjeeling Limited, he should, since this movie has some similarities. Brody seems most at ease with these types of quick witted comedies. Ruffalo is even better as Stephen, the brains behind the operation. Normally, I see Ruffalo in dramas, but he fits into this comedy quite well. But none of them are as good as Rinko Kikuchi as Bang Bang. You may remember Kikuchi for her great performance as the deaf girl in Babel, and while that performance required her dramatic chops, here she proves she could be even better at comedy. Bang Bang rarely speaks, and no one really knows anything about her, except that she’s good with explosives. Like Babel, she uses her remarkably expressive face. This is another great performance. I look forward to seeing her in future movies - maybe even ones where they allow her to speak.

Overall, I enjoyed The Brothers Bloom. It is a completely meaningless movie, one that doesn’t really have a greater purpose in mind, but does what it does remarkably well. If I am a little disappointed in the movie, it’s because this doesn’t represent a step forward for Johnson, but rather a step back. Why would a writer/director as obviously talented as Johnson, want to become a Wes Anderson clone? Anderson does what he does better than anyone else can. Johnson should stick to finding his own voice as a director. If he does, then I feel we’ll see even better films from him in the future.

1 comment:

  1. I saw it as well and i agree with your review. I thought Rachel Weisz was fabulous, she's with out a doubt the best thing about the film.