The Brothers Bloom
October 21, 2010
It was with high expectations that I slipped Bloom into my DVD player. After all, Rian Johnson had made the excellent Dashiell-Hammet-in-high-school Brick, one of the coolest indie films of the past few years. Would Bloom have the sharp dialogue, excellent performances and twisty twisty plot of his Sundance prize-winning directorial debut?
The film starts with the siblings acquiring a taste for elaborate cons. Older brother Stephen is the brains of the outfit, and concocts scenarios, scripts and characters for young Bloom to join him in. At this point, I must confess my ignorance as to why they are known as the brothers Bloom, when it seems to be that it’s the first name of one of them. My brain may have stroked off at the point where it was explained. Maybe his name is Bloom Bloom. Who cares?
Anyhoo, we cut from the curiously attired boys (think of an Amish Charlie Chaplin) and flash forward to them as adults. Bloom (Adrien Brody) is still involved in Stephen’s (Mark Ruffalo) scams, but they’re accompanied by Stephen’s Japanese explosives-expert girlfriend Bang Bang (Rinko Kikuchi). It turns out the Bloom has had a gutfull of being a grifter, and wants to leave the life behind. As is the way of things, he’s tempted into one last job – that of scamming rich, eccentric, beautiful shut-in Penelope (Rachel Weisz).
The world that Johnson has created here is just as fantastical as the film noir, hardboiled high school of Brick’s. Penelope lives in a castle. In New Jersey. She pootles around in a banana yellow Lamborghini, but the only way to travel internationally is by tramp steamer. Their jaunt from the US to Greece takes them past snow topped mountains. In the middle of the ocean. However, where the anachronistic dialogue in Brick seems… right, this seems contrived. Annoying, even.
The acting on offer here is fine. Weisz is radiant as Penelope, Ruffalo wears his role like a pair of comfy old slippers, and Brody passes muster even though it’s obvious that he’s really, really acting. Even Rinko Kikuchi is great, despite never saying a word. The main problem with this film is that it doesn’t know when to stop with the con. When you think you’ve got it figured, you realise that you haven’t. Or maybe you have. No, definitely not… hold on. Yes. Ah. Bugger.
There’s nothing wrong with leading the audience up the garden path before taking them by surprise, but it’s another thing to jerk them around, and this is what happens here. Ultimately, it lacks the substance to back up its style, and it’s just plain annoying.
Whimsical films are hard to pull off, but The Brothers Bloom makes a game effort and will no doubt find an audience. Unfortunately, it’s less Amelie, more The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.