The Brothers Bloom Directed by: Rian Johnson Cast: Adrien Brody, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel Weisz Running Time: 2 hours Rating: PG-13 Release Date: May 22, 2009
Plot: Two con-artist brothers (Brody and Ruffalo) attempt to swindle a wealthy shut-in (Weisz) with an elaborate con that will grant the two cons full access to Europe's opulent side.
Who’s It For? For fans of writer-director Rian Johnson’s debut, Brick, this is worth the watch. But those who are simply intrigued by snappy marketing and fun casts should be cautious of being tricked into a possible letdown.
Expectations: Like many, I really enjoyed Brick. The hard-hitting film proved that Johnson has an authentic vision and a unique knack for storytelling. An exciting trailer for Bloom hinted at the possibility that his return would be bigger, bolder, and possibly even better. I trusted Johnson and Co. for hip, well-rounded entertainment full of rewarding con-men cleverness.
Adrien Brody as Bloom: Afraid to get his feet wet by playing a character any different than that of The Darjeeling Limited, Brody is still dry. His sensitive character doesn’t bring anything new to the plate - just his regular fragility. Score: 6
Mark Ruffalo as Steven: Steven is the manipulative brother who already has his next two (or even three) steps planned. Mark Ruffalo plays the orchestrating sibling well, seeping a constant "cool" into the general, hip experience of the film. Like his onscreen brother, Ruffalo's character is entertaining but lacks both notable chutzpah or the expected amount of laughs. Score: 5
Rachel Weisz as Penelope Stamp: Penelope is heavily favored by Johnson's character palette, so she's hilarious. At the same time, it emphasizes the comparative paleness of the title characters. But it is wonderful to see the usually intelligent Weisz play such a dim-witted character with lovable-idiot pizzazz. The film's original title was "Penelope," and Weisz' performance proves why. Score: 8
Talking: The most memorable humor of Bloom is very cartoonish. A mature exterior with a childish interior, the film tends to take part in looney slapstick, usually spurred out of the action (explosions, etc). But once in a while, the naive Penelope’s ridiculous utterances generate a buoyant laugh. The rest of the cast deals with dialogue that seems a bit dehydrated, only lightened up by its goofy contexts. Score: 6
Sights & Sounds: If Wes Anderson died tomorrow, The Brothers Bloom would be his fitting tribute. Unfortunately, the film only has tiny shards of Rian Johnson’s established originality. Instead, he’s busier with repeating elements that Anderson has essentially made his own: childhood flashbacks, cinematographic tricks, informative titles at the beginnings of scenes, and even a stiff Adrien Brody are elements that are straight out of the Anderson formula. By themselves, these components are fine, but together they stink of copycat worship. Like films from Anderson, Johnson's Bloom even has a great, unusual soundtrack, which we can at least accept as a pleasant coincidence. Score: 5
The story is quite fun, even if its surprises tend to be thwarted by predictability (with the exception of the film's final con). Worst of all, Bloom's vision tends to feel like cinematic plagiarism. This is disappointing from Rian Johnson, a film student that rightfully earned high marks with his first project. For his big budget return, Johnson was given some heavy-duty tools, like an A-list cast, gunfights, explosions, and even four different European countries to shoot in. But with such hardware, he fails to craft a film any more impressive than his tinier debut.
Final Score: 7/10