The Brothers Bloom Review
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A few years ago, a smart and entirely original little indie called Brick started making the rounds at film festivals. And when I finally caught it on DVD, I knew that I’d found something special. Now, for writer/director Rian Johnson’s second feature, The Brothers Bloom, the budget’s bigger, the cast is more prestigious, and the story is lighter—but it’s still every bit as imaginative as Johnson’s hard-boiled high school crime drama.

The Brothers Bloom is the story of brothers Stephen (Mark Ruffalo) and Bloom (Adrien Brody). At a young age, as they made their way from foster home to foster home, the mischievous orphans discovered their calling as con men. For each new con, mastermind Stephen would write a story—always starring his reserved younger brother—that would play out into a con. And as Stephen dreamed of pulling off the perfect con—in which everyone gets what they want in the end—Bloom dreamed of someday living an unwritten life.

  
 
When Bloom decides that it’s time for him to learn how to live his own life—outside his brother’s stories—Stephen proposes one last con. So the brothers—along with their silent associate, Bang Bang (Rinko Kikuchi)—head to New Jersey, where they write themselves into the life of Penelope Stamp (Rachel Weisz), a reclusive heiress who has all the time and money in the world and nothing to do with it.

Though The Brothers Bloom is strikingly un-similar to Brick, the two films do, at least, have one thing in common: writer/director Johnson’s fresh and creative storytelling style. The Brothers Bloom is a masterfully written adventure that’s much smarter than the average caper comedy. As with other con-man comedies—like Dirty Rotten Scoundrels or The Sting—there’s a surprise around every corner. And although any good con man knows that he’s got to keep his feelings in check and stay one step ahead of his mark, eccentric and unpredictable Penelope gives the brothers a run for their money.

This ageless tale is both modern and old-fashioned, both playful and romantic. The characters dress in classic suits and bowler hats, and they visit charming old European cities, traveling by rail or by steamer. Still, the film doesn’t really feel like a period piece—especially when Penelope pulls up in her bright yellow sports car. But the fact that the story doesn’t exist in any real time in history (only in the writer/director’s imagination) isn’t distracting. On the contrary, it makes the story feel more magical and fairy tale-like.

The story may not have been quite so magical, however, without the perfect cast. The four lead actors are phenomenal in their roles, making it impossible not to fall in love with their characters. Brody is adorable as quiet, hesitant Bloom. Ruffalo’s Stephen may be a scamp—but at least he’s a lovable scamp (who only wants what’s best for his little brother). And Weisz is so engaging as the eccentric heiress that I once found myself nodding in response as she spoke—because it felt like she’d walked off the screen and was talking right to me. Even Kikuchi, who has just three words of dialogue in the entire film, is spectacular in her Harpo Marx-esque role.

This con-man caper offers a little bit of everything: adventure, romance, and plenty of kooky comedy—all wrapped up in a story that’s so fun and magical, you won’t want it to end. It’s more than just a must-see; it’s a must-see-again.


Ed. Note: For more on The Brothers Bloom, check out Kristin’s Toronto Film Festival interviews with Rian Johnson, Adrien Brody, Mark Ruffalo, and Rachel Weisz.

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