The Brothers Bloom: More of the Same from the Con Man Genre

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About four years ago when Rian Johnson first appeared on the map with his noir film Brick, a mildly entertaining and modern take on Howard Hawk’s The Big Sleep, it seemed as though this new filmmaker had the artistic credibility and cunning to be one of our more than decent modern filmmakers. However, Rian’s latest attempt with The Brothers Bloom is by no means artistically credible or even cleverly made. Instead of being a unique and modern version of a con-man film it rather seems as though it’s a cheap knock off of Wes Anderson’s Bottle Rocket, without the finesse and ingenuity that makes Anderson’s work stand out. A combination of a style over substance story, unsympathetic characters, and a plotline that really never goes anywhere makes The Brothers Bloom one of the more disappointing films of the year due mostly to the high hopes towards this well intentioned director.

The Brothers Bloom is a con man tale of two brothers the older being Stephen, played diligently by Mark Ruffalo, and the younger called Bloom, played by Adrien Brody in a rather bland performance. Ever since these two boys were young, Stephen acted as the director or master mind behind the cons placing his younger brother as the protagonist of their plots. Bloom, being fed up with not being able to tell what is real or fake anymore, quits the con man gig with his brother to try and live an unscripted life on his own. That is until Stephen finds Bloom again to convince him into one last con, you know, the stereotypical and cliché last job that will set them up for the rest of their lives. The con will is set to be on a rich New Jersey heiress, an energetic Rachel Weisz combining her aspects of her role in The Mummy with Natalie Portman’s character in Garden State, who only seems unique and eccentric due to her lavish and strange hobbies shown to us in a montage (which is probably one of the more enjoyable sequences of the film). It seems as though Mr. Johnson wants to go out of his way to portray his film as different and unique rather than allowing the audience to come to its own conclusion, which is evident in the first scene when the narration proclaims that this con man story is different from the rest. When a film goes out of its way to tell you it’s different from others in its genre a red flag should immediately go up.

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There are many aspects of this film that seem as though it’s trying way too hard for the spectacle of the story rather than the depth of it. The random peculiar characters, including performances from Robbie Coltrane and Maximilian Schell, and the glamorous and diverse locations serve as an indication that Rian Johnson was intending for a fun adventure story but any vigor that would give the characters any audience sympathy or understanding is quite lacking. The vibrant colors and exotic location scouting proves that Mr. Johnson has the eye for cinema and makes the picture look great, but when it comes to giving this average tale the slightest bit of personal investment into the desired characters that department is clearly absent. This doesn’t even include the not-so-shocking climax and ending that can be seen a mile away if one pays attention well enough. However, the movie doesn’t quite grab your attention. The films blatant attempt at being quirky and eccentric is an off putter because it seems as though it is trying to impress you rather than getting you involved with the characters.

As acting generally goes the film is pretty average. Mark Ruffalo is enjoyable and Adrien Brody, while at times is quite ordinary, is able to work off Ruffalo’s cunning and bright personality. We’ve seen Rachel Weisz in roles like this before and it’s pretty much a recycled performance, which is unfortunate due to her academy award win and the potential of her acting abilities. Robbie Coltrane, Maximilian Schell, and Rinko Kukuchi are interesting to say the least, but when the story continues along these characters serve more as a distraction than pivotal plot points. Although Rinko Kukuchi as the mysterious Bang Bang is a memorable character and performance adding to her acting credibility ever since her outstanding role in Babel.

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Will most people not enjoy The Brothers Bloom? This is probably not the case because the movie in itself is enjoyable; a fun theater experience. But if you’re looking for more in your films, say exquisite acting or a riveting surprise climax, or at least a film that is expressively unique than this really isn’t the film for you. As a smaller summer release one would hope that the film would bring something different to the table and provide avid movie watchers with quality independent entertainment among the summer blockbusters. However, Rian Johnson has brought us your average con man tale despite his attempts at quirkiness to make it different. Hopefully with Johnson’s experimentation in genre, something he knows how to show using the right tone and lighting, he will find his calling and give us something more notable in the future.

Grade: C+

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