The Brothers Bloom

It’s difficult to know how to describe the latest offering from writer/director Rian Johnson (Brick).
It may put itself in the ‘comedy’ genre, but this quirky off-beat tale about con artists Stephen (Mark Ruffalo) and Bloom (Adrian Brody) – the Bloom brothers of the title – is a somewhat fantastical, other-worldly experience without any real laugh-out-loud moments to speak of.
That said, it does serve up a fairly original, and dare I say, intellectual take on the ‘sting’ genre. However it’s in danger of outsmarting everyone – cast and audience – on too many levels, to the point that we’re not sure we really care what happens, because nothing is what it seems anyway; and that, really, is both its brilliance and its downfall.
Stephen casts the younger Bloom in his elaborately choreographed and cunningly-executed cons, but when Bloom loses sight of who he actually is when he’s not ‘in character’, he decides it’s time for him to quit in favour of an ‘unwritten life’.
But Stephen has other ideas and convinces Bloom to help him pull off one last job, to dupe beautiful and eccentric heiress Penelope – played by Rachel Weisz, who pulls off the comedy of her character with seamless ease. All is going to plan until Bloom finds himself falling for her – but are his feelings real or just part of the con?
The stunning scenery sweeps us along – the uncommon backdrop of Prague is refreshing in itself – and the romance that develops between Brody’s and Weisz’s characters has a certain innocence that’s reminiscent of old black and white movies, giving it a great deal of charm.
Ruffalo too excels in his role and, having last been seen in Scorsese’s Shutter Island, gets to prove his diversity as an actor, with his character harping back to his other off-beat turn in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
Indeed it shares that same unconventional approach to storytelling and it’s not just the European setting that gives it more of an indie feel, with some little quirks that wouldn’t be out of place in a Jean-Pierre Jeunet or Wes Anderson movie.
The rather bizarre appearance of Robbie Coltrane seems a tad strange though, even for this movie, and sticks out like a sore thumb amid the otherwise spot-on cast; it does add to the overall weird and wonderful theme however, as does the presence of Bang Bang (Rinko Kikuchi), a Japanese explosives expert who as the Blooms’ silent partner proves you can have a big impact without uttering a word.
There’s no doubt that this is an enjoyable if slightly overly-plotted romp that is carried off with style; but it somehow leaves us feeling that we’re the ones who’ve been conned and maybe it’s been a little too smart for its own good.
That said, it’s a joy to see some originality back on the big screen with real character performances, and for that, we should all be blooming grateful.

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