The Brothers Bloom (2009)
Is there anything worse in the world of cinema than making your way about 15 minutes into a film and feeling like you already know everything that is going to happen, as if the director and writer took a cookie cutter and stamped it over the entire genre, leaving a perfectly crisp and predictable outline for you to follow? It’s a rhetorical question, sort of, but thankfully it does not apply to 100% of the The Brothers Bloom, a film by Rian Johnson, in which we are taken for a ride on a common topic (the con man) but given enough change from the status quo to keep us interested (almost throughout.)
Stephen (Mark Ruffalo) and Bloom (Adrien Brody) are brothers, the former 3 years older, who, from the time they can consciously understand the value of money (say, 10 years old or so) decide to con people out of it. Stephen is the brains of the operation, coming up with the scheme worked out in a series of steps and bubbles on a piece of paper, with each one involving his younger brother as the star of the con. Bouncing from foster home to foster home they continually find themselves on the move and soon we find thirty-something versions of the two as they pull off yet another in a long long line of successful and complicated capers.
The life of a con man is tiring Bloom, unsatisfied by the written life his brother gives to him. A series of cons in which he is to get the trust of a woman, get close to her, and then without so much as a goodbye, take his leave, has left him jaded and wanting to lead an unwritten life. Perhaps a clean break with his brother and partner is what is needed, and so he leaves for Montenegro, and there he is, by himself, a new life… for 3 months. And then his brother comes calling again, and he cannot resist “one more big con to end them all” on an eccentric young heiress from New Jersey.
Whisking us through different periods in time and some wonderful scenery, this film takes on an often formulaic theme and gives us something not quite revolutionary, but different enough to warrant our attention. Along with Bang Bang (Rinko Kikuchi), the Asian con-woman who just showed up one day to help them and who likes to blow things up but almost never speaks, the team makes their way throughout the world conning con men and being the best at what they do, until ultimately Bloom’s desires for a real life come to a head with the meeting of their final mark, the young, eccentric and beautiful heiress Penelope (Rachel Weisz). The majority of the film is concerned with the elaborate con of the woman and had the team making this film held out with just a bit more conviction they could have found something special here, but unfortunately they fall pretty to third act problems, so prevalent with recent films it makes your head spin, and we are left with a bit of sour taste at the end wondering what could have been.
This is not a must-see film but it is worth a look, if for no other reason than it is a nice change from a lot of the same ol’ same ol’ being produced in Hollywood, and the characters are all acted nicely throughout with some well timed deadpan humor that keeps us smiling. This film doesn’t break the mold, but it expands it quite well.