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What a wonderful surprise: Yesterday my sister calls me and tells me
that there's a new film by the director of Brick, playing at the Mill
Valley Film Festival. "I'm there!"
Even before we get in the theater, I know we're in for a different experience. A pair of toughs with metal detectors wave us down for hidden cameras and demand we turn our cell phones off. I'm surprised we didn't have to take our shoes off. Endgame Entertainment certainly doesn't want any leaks.
Once inside, the director, Rian Johnson, shows up just before the show starts, fresh off a flight from Abu Dhabi no less. He gives a short interview with Mark Fishkin (long time director of the festival), coming off as a very charming, self-effacing, funny and unpretentious fellow. I like him immediately. Hollywood has not corrupted him (yet).
Like Tarantino, Johnson has closely studied films and makes constant references and nods to The Classics, especially from the 40s and 50s. Unlike Tarantino, Johnson writes more original stories and has good taste and far gentler sensibilities. Obvious influences include: Wes Anderson, The Cohen Bros, Billy Wilder, John Huston.
The film itself? Instant classic. It's got all the elements you could want in a Hollywood-style movie: Charming characters, plot twists, tons of gags, an incredibly beautiful leading lady, sumptuous sets and locations, and an overall sense "gee-whiz-isn't-this-fun!"
And it's classy, too. It doesn't resort to needless, sensationalist sex and violence. The writer respects and honors the audience's intelligence, a all-too-rare occurrence these days.
You could tell that the actors had a blast with the sometimes subtle, sometimes slap-stick script, relishing their characters' quirks and foibles.
Overall, Brothers Bloom almost manages perfection. It's one fault lies in the resolution, the last 5 minutes where it's tone abruptly changes for darker. Without giving anything away, I feel that it was too heavy-handed, considering the generally light and wacky spirit that had predominated. The rest of the audience seemed to feel the same way, given the hushed mood as the credits rolled. If the producers have an alternate ending up their sleeves, I suggest they use it, even it has to be somewhat ambiguous.
Otherwise, I'm happy to contribute to the positive buzz. I really think Brothers Bloom could be a huge hit, even a timeless classic.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"The Brothers Bloom" is a movie stock full of great ideas that it
executes without any apparent knowledge of what makes a movie work.
It's filmed in some of the most beautiful places in the world and
captures them blandly. It's step-by-step full of great con-games that
we don't care about. It's got one of the most interesting heroines in
years that it ultimately leaves to the side, unaware of how to use her.
It's constantly suggesting great artists (Melville, Dostoevsky) and
it's opening act - a Ricky Jay-narrated history of the Brothers Bloom's
humble beginnings - promises greatness. But the movie doesn't deliver.
The story: Mark Ruffalo and Adrien Brody started conning as children, and never stopped, and now, as adults, they're locked together like the siblings in "Les Enfants Terribles," only capable of inhabiting their own world of deception and whimsy. Ruffalo's the head and likes it that way and Brody's the heart and wants out, wants to find happiness somewhere else, in the "unwritten life." Ruffalo sets up One Last Job for the two of them, and the mark is Rachel Weisz (the heroine), a reclusive millionaire and collector of hobbies. As this is a con-movie, any further explanation is unnecessary.
Rian Johnson, the film's director and director of "Brick," has fine taste, as he flaunts constantly, but his movies are an argument that good taste does not a great artist make. Like the lowliest imitator, he wants to do something like his favorites, but he hasn't put much thought into why those movies worked on him. "The Big Sleep" has the period dialogue, the shadows and all that, but it's great because of the chemistry, the mood, what's happening under the surface. "Brick" has no mood, it's all surface, all words and cinematography, a truly empty film. With "The Brothers Bloom," Johnson is trying to make "The Sting" by way of Wes Anderson, the French New Wave (and a little David Mamet), but mostly misses the comedy of Anderson, the style of the New Wave and doesn't even come close to the metaphysical suspense of a Mamet film.
For instance: Ruffalo has a sidekick/girlfriend played by Rinko Kikuchi. Her name is "Bang Bang" because she likes explosives, and she doesn't speak a single line of dialogue. This alone is gimmicky enough, an easy way of forging a Character without thinking for a second who she might be. The movie explains she just up and appeared to the Brothers one day, and will disappear, one day, in the same fashion. So she's an almost supernatural character, I guess, but to what purpose? Quirkiness? Kikuchi eats up the attention in any scene she's in, simply because we want to know more about her, but Johnson insults her and the audience by keeping her a prop, like the hamburger phone in "Juno." In one Emotional Montage at the end, she sings, which would be a great moment in a better movie but here is handled so off-the-cuff and casually we just sort of shrug it off. A couple short scenes later she disappears into thin air in front of Brody, so we think, that was it? And then she pops up again, to do nothing, and disappears again. Johnson doesn't seem to be thinking at all.
But he might fool you. The dialogue is finely-honed, but too much so, it becomes awkward, clunky, speaking to ideas Johnson hasn't completed rather than ones the characters are having spontaneously. The movie really, really wants to be as dialogue-driven as a Mamet movie but falls short in its excess of artifice and complete lack of wit. That said, Brody, Weisz and Ruffalo create likable characters simply by appearing on screen; they're all such great actors we're almost happy enough just to watch them have some fun. Weisz especially, her eccentric is so convincing at times it makes the movie's shortchanging her so much more troubling. Her character is built up to have a mystery about her, something intriguing seems to lie beneath the surface, but as it goes on we sadly realize that's more to do with Weisz's skill and less to do with Johnson's writing.
The plot keeps going and going and going, the movie feels twice as long as "The Dark Knight" and about a quarter as interesting. There's a con, and then there's another con, and then another, and they're all pretty well thought-out except that the outcomes don't mean anything to us because Johnson hasn't spent enough time figuring out who his characters are, and what we want for them. Brody is frustratingly ineffectual, and Ruffalo convinces us he knows all the answers, he just never tells us what they are. Robbie Coltrane and Maximilian Schell pop up, Schell with an eye-patch and a drama-class-level costume, and do nothing.
And then there's the last revelation, and the ending, which could've been beautiful and poignant, if only Johnson had any idea how to take us there. He doesn't. His head's in the right place, he just needs to use it more, and most importantly discover his heart. Not a bad movie, just not one worth seeing.
While the complete polar opposite of Brick, Johnson left the Dashiell
Hammett prose and instead decided to delve into Wes Anderson territory.
His The Brothers Bloom is a smart, witty adventure that takes some
unexpected turns on its journey, never lets a detail fall into
obscurity, and shows that if nothing else, he is a high caliber
storyteller that should be around for a long time, not rehashing the
same thing over and over again, but churning out refreshingly new and
unique yarns to entertain and enlighten.
This tale is about a duo of con menthe best in the worldwho reunite to do one last job. The younger, Bloom, has been playing the roles written by Stephen since they were children, always embodying the character so easily because it allowed him to be that which was not himself. After having fallen in love with too many marks, only to watch as they swindled and left them out to dry, Bloom is ready to quit and goes into self-imposed exile for three years until his partner finds him and rounds him up for one last big score. That score involves an eccentric shut-in, a woman who has never left her mansion and collects hobbies in order to entertain herself. A master with a deck of cards, juggler extraordinaire, harp player, and ping-pong champ, amongst other activities, there is little she does not know. This epileptic photographer is anxious to go off on an adventure and opening up to the Brothers Bloom is her perfect opportunity to do so, and their best chance at an easy million dollars.
What the men did not account for was her inexhaustible sense of enthusiasm and uncanny knack for the con game. Getting herself out of situations that the brothers can't even fathom and catching on to things so quickly, it's as though the mark becomes the professional, however, that is exactly Stephen's plan. She is a woman of intelligence, beauty, and unique without compare. Penelope is exactly the girl that Bloom has been looking for, but of course, she is discovered in one of Stephen's stories, accessible only until they must cut her loose. Yet, here comes the first "what if" of the film. What if our orchestrator has concocted this all for Bloom, a con on a grand scale in order to give him the life he always wanted? Bloom does say that Penelope feels just like one of Stephen's characters, but as he says in his defense, "the day I con you, is the day I die." We can only hope those words don't become prophetically true.
Johnson weaves an intricate shell game for his characters to roam through, crossing paths, discovering secrets, telling lies, and possibly conning each other. No one truly can tell what's real because not only are they unsure themselves, they know that every one of them has the potential to make-up an elaborate scheme to confuse and manipulate. Ruffalo is the true artist at this game, crudely drawing up a plan of attack in brainstorm bubble trees, thinly veiling his tales with inside jokes that a woman like Penelope (Weisz) is well-informed enough to see through, yet too naïve to put together. Straight from the start, a childhood narrated by Ricky Jay, these boys have gotten what they wanted and planned to perfection. Trained by the nefarious Diamond Dog, the men, (Brody portraying the other, Bloom), have eclipsed their master and took the world by storm. Along with their pyrotechnics guru Bang Bang, (Rinko Kikuchi) and a select cast of regular actors (Robbie Coltrane as the Belgian and a great string of cameos in a bar scene early on with Nora Zehetner, Noah Segan, and a blink-and-you'll-miss-him Joseph Gordon Levitt all showing some Brick love), the boys always get what they want. Ultimately attempting to create the perfect conso well planned out and airtight that it happens all by itselfthis con becomes reality and everyone gets exactly what they wanted.
The Brothers Bloom is told in a storybook fashion with bright colors and in-focus frames. Johnson jam-packs each composition with detail upon detail, never shying away from having an important plot point occur in the background, behind a conversation or action by our leads at the forefront. Most times they are jokes, lending some levity to the situation, one that becomes ever more dark as the charade goes along; unexpectedly dark, yet perfectly so. His use of humor infuses a heart into the proceedings and a true bond and relationship between Stephen and Bloom, two men that learn to hate each other at the end of a job, but always come to the others help when needed at the start. You must be diligent to the environment surrounding our actors, as it is just as much playing a role as they, helping a truly bold and intricate story be disguised as a simple one. Very slight on first appearance, it is the fact that it's so well told that makes it seem simpler than it really is. Without any bloated superfluities or weakly handled tangents, this tightly woven tapestry lives on its own at a breakneck speed, culminating with a spectacular final twist, an end that had been building up right from the start in that bourgeois playground during the boys' foster home placement. The Brothers Bloom look out for each other and never let the other down, no matter what damage it may cause to themselves. In the end, they do it all for their brother, anything they can to make the other's life a success.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The Brothers Bloom, dir. Rian Johnson-The film had some very good
elements: -The visual look was terrific. I wasn't sure if it was a
period piece or it was set in the late 2000's, because there was a
definite lack of cell phones and other modern day aparatuses in the
frame. It was very retro, yet very much in the present -Rachel Weicz
was such a fascinating character. How could a woman that beautiful and
rich be so lonely? Weicz manages to pull it off. An absolutely amazing
performance and kudos to her for learning all those talents (apparently
she had to learn all those talents) -Some of the dialogue was
exceptional. Penelope's speech about reinventing her life and refusing
to see her loneliness as a weakness was definitely thought-provoking.
At the same time, the film on the whole didn't make any sense. It was too many twists to the point where you just didn't care what was going on screen because none of it was real and there wasn't much suspense to convince you that the film might have been heading in any other direction. It would have always made more sense for Adrian Brody's character to just marry Penelope and inherit her fortune.
The Brothers Bloom starts off with a bang of cinematic energy. We're
introduced, by a kind of whimsical narrator not unlike one might have
remembered from Pushing Daisies, to the brothers, Stephen and Bloom, as
children in a town where everything is one-note: one group of kids, one
store, one this or that. Stephen, the more inventive one of the duo (or
rather, the one that will whip up a plan with a quirk or two not unlike
Owen Wilson in Bottle Rocket), devises the first con to be that of
intriguing the hell out of a group of kids- first part introducing
Bloom to a girl, which he likes right away- and then leading to a cave
that tricks them all into believing something is there which, of
course, is not.
This entire section, about five to ten minutes, is a brilliant short film, self-contained within itself and donning the kind of energy that, again, can be comparable to Wes Anderson. This is not to knock Rian Johnson as an original talent. He is. But for anyone that's seen any of Anderson's films, specifically Bottle Rocket and Rushmore and Life Aquatic, this is that kind of speedy intro that includes very precise pans and movements with the camera and facial expressions that mark this as something, well, "different". This also appears to be how the rest of the story will pan out, this distinctive, acute and stylish endeavor of film-making, as the brothers, grown up (Adrien Brody as Bloom, Mark Ruffalo as Stephen) are continuing with their cons until Bloom wants out, leading up to the typical "one-last-con" deal where-in they'll con a reclusive New Jersey heiress Penelope (Rachel Weisz) who has way too much time on her hands as well as money for the taking.
Then there's the complications, of romance between Bloom and Penelope, and the complication that she's let in on Stephen and Bloom being "artifact smugglers", then the appearance of a certain nefarious figure known as "Diamond Dog", and meanwhile their Silent Bob figure, Bang Bang (Rino Kikuchi), tags along as someone who we only find out late in the game of the story that she has a cell phone (?) and can make origami at just the right moment.
All of this makes The Brothers Bloom sound quite plot driven, not to mention the ups and downs and twists and turns of the cons that happen, or don't, between the brothers, Penelope, the revelations, etc. Depending on the viewer, and how much they'll want to believe or, frankly, how many movies they've seen of this type (one could see this as being a slick parody of a film like 2003's Confidence, also co-starring Rachel Weisz if memory serves), it's like following magicians doing work, not believing a thing or believing everything. Or some of it, perhaps. It's almost like the Prestige if it didn't actually want the audience to believe in magic. More that Johnson wants the audience to make the distinction between characters who draw their own reality and can't seem to break out into their own "unwritten" roles.
And yet, for all the story's twists and turns, its strengths are in the characters. It's actually, not too unlike Anderson (again, sorry), more European influenced in that regard as it takes us along on its journey because of the characters, not the other way around. This helps since the characters all work with their respective players, more or less. More because of Adrien Brody and Rachel Weisz, who play off each other wonderfully as an at-first awkward couple who get further romantically involved (there's a wonderful, spot-on charming scene where we see them kiss, and we understand clearly Penelope is having her first French-style) and connect closest with how Johnson casts them. Less with Ruffalo, who grew on me as the film went on, mainly towards the end (his last scene, without spoiling much, is a keeper for his extended reel), since he's meant to be conniving and devilish but doesn't really fit in even as he's good at delivering the lines and countering Brody and Weisz.
The other way it's also European is that it's meant to be, and is, a director's tour-de-force. As the sophomore effort of Rian Johnson, after his first very impressive debut Brick (which, I should note, also tooled playfully with conventions of a genre as he attempts here), he's aiming quite high. The only problem that I encountered with it was that, perhaps by some proxy of the script, it takes a lot to really get emotionally wound up with these people.
The style of his camera, the tricks of his editing, are like cons in and of themselves, but there's (apologies for this over-used word) quirks to the proceedings that deflate some scenes that would work much better in straightforward terms (I may have been the only one rolling my eyes at the "knickname" for Bang Bang being Yuengling with the line "Yuengling, like the beer?"). Sometimes this excess-of-style works well, like when we flash through all of the "hobbies" Penelope does in her countless spare time at her mansion. Other times, sad to say, it just calls attention to itself without being cool-hip ala Ocean's Eleven or warm-hearted ala (one more time) an Anderson picture.
And yet, for the gripes I might have had, it's impossible for me to ignore what Johnson has shown here and in Brick. He delivers characters we want to watch and situations that unfold with diverting, entertaining results, even as one might never fully believe what will happen next. Or maybe we do. He's a director that isn't going away, and to me this is a good thing. That's no con. 7.5/10
The Brothers Bloom unwinds the story of two confidence men, an Asian
sidekick and their rich but isolated mark. The Brothers Bloom is a
charming off kilter dramedy about love.
Bloom (Adrien Brody) and his brother Stephen (Mark Ruffalo) work as confidence men with their explosive sidekick Bang Bang (Rinko Kikuchi). Tired of the life, Bloom tells his brother he's done. His brother talks him into one final con against Penelope Stamp (Rachael Weisz.) Penelope is a rich, eccentric shut-in who has yet to live. They take advantage of her loneliness in a scam meant to satisfy her need for adventure.
Rian Johnson sees the world in The Brothers Bloom the way an archer fish sees bugs. The archer fish hunts bugs above the water's surface by shooting water at the bug from below the water line. When looking up from underneath everything looks like it is one place but actually is in a slightly different place because water refracts light, changing the view for the submerged. The archer fish has to see things slightly cockeyed in order to get the archery right. Rian Johnson took a slightly crooked approach to get the cinematic physics just right.
Penelope Stamp is the Robin Hood of cinematic archer fish. Everything about her life, her development, and her emotions are delightfully off balance. She isn't brilliant but she had dedicated herself to learning how to do many strange and obscure things. It wasn't good enough for Rian Johnson to make Penelope interested in pinhole cameras (a camera made by putting a piece of photo paper in a light-tight container and poking a pin hole in it to expose the paper), it had to be a pin hole camera made of a watermelon. Johnson made sure Penelope is beautiful, but by casting Weisz, made her an interesting beauty.
It isn't just the nature of the characters, but also how they talk. Johnson commits so fully to this strange-ified world, that dialogue that would warrant a call to the loony bin in real life, seems natural in the world created in The Brothers Bloom.
The downside to making the characters fit so naturally in their world is jokes or emotions that might resonate deeply in our world sometimes fall a little flat in The Brothers Bloom. There are no gut busting jokes but occasionally the audience finds themselves chuckling. Cheeks will not be soaked in tears, but occasionally a frog may find way into the throats of the viewers.
The Brothers Bloom is an endearing quirk-filled film sure to whisk the audience away on a flying crime filled love carpet.
This may be my first review of a movie for IMDb. Can't remember if it is or it isn't but the point is I don't normally feel compelled to write about movies on this website. I had the pleasure of seeing this movie in advance at the New Beverly Cinema in Los Angeles this February. I had not yet seen Rian Johnson's previous film Brick, so going in I had no biased opinion about the director or any expectations about what I was going to see. Basically what I saw was a movie that had a great story to tell. And it knew it, so it acted accordingly. I don't think going into detail about the events in the movie will do anyone any good, so I'll stick to a vague approach here. The movie has a similar vibe to Wes Anderson's work, but only in a purely superficial sense. The plot is of the "caper" mold and concerns two sibling con men and their virtually mute sidekick on a quest to trick rich people out of a lot of money. The actors are all first rate. Adrien Brody is essentially the lead, but Mark Ruffalo and Rinko Kikuchi round out the main group of characters. That is, until we meet the real star of this movie. Rachel Weisz has always been great in everything I've seen her in, but she commands the screen in this movie like I've never seen before. I'd put her on an early shortlist for Best Supporting Actress at next year's Oscars. Ultimately this movie made such a strong impression on me because of how well her character worked for me and the strong chemistry she had with Adrien Brody. I strongly recommend you avoid details about this movie in order to get swept up by this wonderful story, like I did. This is a must-see.
I have to say , this movie was certainly a breath of fresh air compared
to the rest of the crap that has been coming out of the big production
If your looking for a different movie all together , with a good story line , great acting and lovely music score ( composed by Nathan Johnson , its perfectly matches the essence being portrayed in the movie) , this is it.
Adrien Brody , Mark Ruffalo and Rachel Weiz are just amazing through out the movie . The chemistry between Brody and Ruffalo is certainly a high light of the movie , they don't look like brothers but throughout the movie you hardly notice. Rachel Weiz is as always amazing. Love her character.
Of course i cannot go away without mentioning Rinko Kikuchi as Bang Bang ,hardly any dialogues in the movie apart from a few one liners ,including "FUCK ME " ( you cannot miss it :P ) she definitely steals the show as the quirky mysterious sidekick .
I am writing this right after watching the movie so my rating as of now is definitely 9, a must watch if your tired of the usual movies hitting the screens.
Conning Linguists: The Brothers Bloom In a summer full of dumber than
dumb spectacle, and subtext free action porn "The Brothers Bloom" is a
breath of fresh air.
With wit, warmth, and beautiful settings galore the film creates a delightfully wacky alternate world full of whimsy, romance, and adventure.
At the beginning of the film we meet two orphaned brothers, Stephen Bloom (Mark Ruffalo) and Bloom Bloom (Adrien Brody). From the age of 10, the brothers are con-artists, always spinning yarns and creating characters, inventing new and increasingly elaborate ways of separating their mark from his money while also giving him exactly what he wants in life. Everything changes when Bloom decides to get out of the game and Stephen lures him in for one last swindlea beautiful and quirky millionaire (Rachel Weisz) who yearns for a taste of adventure.
The Brothers Bloom is the second feature from writer/director Rian Johnson. He previously took the indie world by storm with his award winning debut, "Brick". As with "Brick" Johnson again takes elements of several fallow genres and remixes them into something that feels both new and old all at once. The result is nothing short of magical. The characters pop off the screen and the dialogue and images loop back in on themselves making winking references that are sure to inspire fits of giggles from anyone who stayed awake during AP Lit. But, even if you don't recognize the title as a Dostoevsky reference, the film is sure to entertain.
At the center of it all is Brody who is tasked with playing the straight man during the film's increasingly convoluted comic twists and turns. Perpetually at his side is Ruffalo, who has great fun playing the off the wall, yet always-sincere idea man who writes his schemes the way Russians write novels. The chemistry between the duo is infectious. It's like the two have known each other for their entire lives. They could not look less similar, and yet one never questions their bond.
Weisz is absolutely electric as the object of Brody's affections and the subject of Ruffalo's confidence game. She plays the kind of bubbly, strange woman that really only exists in movies but imbues her with a quiet sadness that grounds the entire picture and ensures that the more surreal elements never take too much of a hold on the film.
Though there is only one large-scale explosion, "The Brothers Bloom" demands the big screen treatment. It was filmed all over Europe and South America and the locations are used to great effect. These aren't sound stages, and it really makes a difference. Every shot is impeccably framed, it's as if Hal Ashby shot "The Sting".
The film is not for all tastes. It requires attention from the viewer, and plays at a leisurely pace compared to many films currently in theaters, and some of the more action oriented beats don't quite gel with the rest of the film, but for those who can appreciate a story that gives itself room to breath, and for those willing to forgive the overly long third act, there is plenty to love.
Most of the movies coming out over the next few months are simply product, attractive, eye catching, and ultimately little more than 90 minute advertisements for the sequel. Not so with "The Brothers Bloom." If you've got a girlfriend and you owe her a decent date movie you can't do much better than this. If you have a boyfriend and you don't want to make him suffer through "Ghosts of Girlfriends Past" this is a great choice. If you've already seen all the action spectaculars, here's something else to see. Or, you know, if you just like good movies
Rachel's role, Penelope, in The Brothers Bloom is far from her
Oscar-winning effort in The Constant Gardener, but she elevates her
role putting herself on par with Tessa Quale. Weisz steals the show
here in a fun, energetic, elaborate tale, The Brothers Bloom.
You'll be bouncing out of you seats watching this film. The script is absolutely hilarious, the director moves fast keeping the material alive, and the performances are classy and strong, but what guides The Brothers Bloom (besides Weisz, of course) is the explosive editing. It's hyperactive, but not obnoxious. It's cool , fun and hip.
Like I've stated before, Weisz steals the show. Her character Penelope is one of the most memorable and well-written characters in recent memory and Weisz is up to the challenge of taking on that role. She's the most interesting character so you immediately take a liking to her. She's so adorable as the bright, lovely character, but the great thing about her performance is underneath all that lies great sorrow.
The rest of the performances aren't too shabby either. Adrien Brody is very good and convincing but it over-towered, by the other more colorful characters. Mark Ruffalo is charming and a ridiculous ball of fun. Rinko Kikuchi has almost no lines, but still gets big laughs.
There are dazzling visuals including some gorgeous costumes and set designs. This is a very funny film. Top that with the amount of energy and entertainment throughout, you're in a for a fantastic thrill ride. Not to mention the glorious performances, especially form the magnificent Rachel Weisz. A delightful thrill ride and the best comedy of 2009; 9
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