The Brothers Bloom (2008, Director: Rian Johnson): I’d been really anticipating this film after seeing Johnson’s debut Brick (2005) about a year ago, but looking at the trailer, I was a little worried that he had strayed too far into Wes Anderson territory. The presence of Adrien Brody riding on a train and a steamship and the meticulous (and sometimes ridiculous) art direction left me thinking that Johnson was borrowing just a little too much.
After seeing the complete film, I’m still of that opinion, but it didn’t make the film any less enjoyable for me. It helps that I’m a big fan of Wes Anderson. Where Johnson differs is in his full-throttle, go-for-broke style of storytelling. Just as in Brick, you’ll probably either sign on early in the film or you’ll just tune out completely. In my case, Johnson’s sharp ear for dialogue and his sheer ballsiness as a filmmaker immediately put me on his side.
The Brothers Bloom are Stephen (Mark Ruffalo) and his younger brother Bloom (Adrien Brody). No, the names don’t really make sense. It’s okay. They’re a pair of conmen who like to live the high life by fleecing suckers out of their money. Stephen is the “author” of the cons and he really does treat each job like a work of literature. These professional liars make their living amongst the rich globetrotting jetsetters who really only seem to exist in the movies. Bloom is the moony romantic who wants out, and Stephen agrees, if Bloom will go along on “one last job.” It so figures that the last job involves the gorgeous Penelope Stamp (Rachel Weisz), who is both incredibly rich and incredibly naive. Predictably, Bloom falls for her. And predictably, complications ensue.
In fact, so many complications and reversals and lies and double-crosses occur that even at the very end, I was unsure whether it wasn’t all going to be revealed as yet another level of the con, a la The Usual Suspects (1995). But fortunately a real heart beats within Johnson’s whipsmart script, and the movie is sweet and silly and smart all at once. Stephen says it best: the perfect con is the one where everyone gets what they want. In my opinion, the whole film is a clever metaphor for filmmaking, and even though Johnson is making it all up, everyone gets to go away happy.
Here is the Q&A with director Rian Johnson and actors Adrien Brody, Rachel Weisz and Mark Ruffalo from after the screening:
Director and stars at the premiere