The Brothers Bloom (Rian Johnson, 2008): USA

Reviewed by Joel DeVries. Viewed at the AFI Film Festival, Archlight Hollywood.

Going into The Brothers Bloom, written and directed by Rian Johnson, I was excited to see a big Hollywood premiere, but I really wasn’t expecting more than a few big name stars and another movie that I really never wanted to see again. This was an incredible miscalculation on my part and I am happy to admit how wrong I was. The Brothers Bloom is non-stop laughter and enjoyment, and is shot on some incredible locations along the way.

We are first introduced to Bloom (Adrien Brody) and his older brother Stephen (Mark Ruffalo) as little kids in black fedoras looking like two little old school gangsters. They began their con journey when Stephen realized he was great at creating a multilayered story that Bloom could act out in order to con people into giving them whatever they wanted. Stephen lives by his motto that the perfect con is one where all of the parties involved get exactly what they want. After their first successful con as children, they found their calling and began to con as their profession. After doing it for years, Bloom begins to despise this false life that lacks true substance; still, Stephen convinces him to do one last con. It involves a girl, Penelope Stamp (Rachel Weisz), from one of the richest families on the east coast. The comedic strength in this film is shown in how they decide that Bloom will get her attention. He rides uncontrollably down a steep hill of her estate and makes sure to crash into her Lamborghini as she is driving down the road. It does the trick, and he gets an invite to her house while they are both in the hospital. Penelope has been sheltered for her entire life, so when Bloom drops the hint  of some kind of adventure, she is hooked and the Bloom Brothers’ plan seems to be going exactly as planned. Along with their silent side kick Bang Bang (Rinko Kikuchi), this group goes on a multilayered adventure of deceit, explosions, and love which leaves you wondering what’s coming next until the end credits.

While this story was very interesting, at times it was a little too much, so the most enjoyable part of this film for me was the comedy. After the film, Rian Johnson stuck around to do a little Q and A. He was flattered when someone called this movie a homage to the screwball comedy of the 1930s. I don’t have much previous knowledge of these old screwball comedies but I know funny when I see it, and this film was hilarious.

My favorite character of the film had to be Bang Bang who rarely said anything but had as major an impact on the film as anyone. The ability to come across so strongly through body movement and facial expression is a true talent and I think could only work with the right actor who in this case was Rinko Kikuchi. She could portray emotions through her eyes and her connection with the brothers made you realize the strong bond that has been created between the three through all of the cons.

I loved the way the story was introduced by taking us back to their childhood. This was similar to the Martin Scorsese Goodfellas which told the characters story from childhood which gives the audience a greater understanding and connection to the character.

Before this film I had never even heard of Rian Johnson but now I have realized he is one of the great upcoming directors who will putting out fantastic films for years to come. I loved this movie and cant wait to get my hands on his first movie which I have only heard great things about,

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