"The Brothers Bloom": Talented director mishandles lightweight con-man yarn

  • By Robert Horton Herald Movie Critic
  • Thursday, May 21, 2009 2:41pm
  • LifeGo-See-Do

Coming after Rian Johnson’s delightful and inventive 2005 film “Brick,” “The Brothers Bloom” can’t help but look like sophomore jinx on a sizable scale.

If you haven’t caught up with “Brick,” check it out. The film created a hard-boiled scenario, complete with wiseguy jargon, but set in a flat, modern high-school world, as though Raymond Chandler had re-written a Zac Efron vehicle.

I’d like to keep writing about how good “Brick” is, but we have “The Brothers Bloom” beckoning. And this is a tougher film to like.

It kicks off with a deft but derivative opening sequence, which provides a thumbnail history of Stephen (Mark Ruffalo) and Bloom (Adrien Brody), brothers whose lives since childhood have been consumed with Stephen’s elaborately complicated con games, which assume the size and length of epic novels.

After putting up with this for a couple of decades, the morose Bloom wants out. But Stephen is persuasive, and when he proposes a wealthy, and lonely, heiress named Penelope (Rachel Weisz) as his next quarry, Bloom gets pulled in.

The problem with Stephen (and maybe it’s a problem for the movie) is that you never know when his scams begin or end. This leads to some entertaining reversals and twists, but is vaguely off-putting when it goes for two hours of screen time.

The story is set in a variety of colorful international locations, such as Prague, St. Petersburg, and the coast of Montenegro. Everything about it trundles along in high style, from the anachronistic clothes to the impossibly spendy locations.

But this kind of lighter-than-air fare needs a sure touch. Somehow with “The Brothers Bloom,” you can always tell that Johnson is going to turn serious on us, as indeed he does in the final sections.

Another issue is the casting. Maybe if Ruffalo and Brody had traded roles something might have sparked, but neither is gifted with the sort of elan the movie calls for.

Rachel Weisz, on the other hand, is effervescent and playful in a way the boys can’t match. There’s also amusing support from Rinko Kikuchi, Oscar nominee for “Babel,” as the brothers’ inexplicably constant (but mostly silent) accomplice, and Robbie Coltrane as a man known as the Curator.

The film’s puckish quality looks as though it springs from too many viewings of Wes Anderson’s “Rushmore” and “The Royal Tenenbaums.”

But when Johnson already had his own distinctive style in “Brick,” why go poaching on another filmmaker’s turf?

“The Brothers Bloom”

Two brothers (Mark Ruffalo and Adrien Brody) shoot for one final con game, involving a lonely heiress (effervescent Rachel Weisz). Rian Johnson’s film aims to be a lighter-than-air concoction, but struggles awfully hard to get aloft.

Rated: PG-13 for subject matter

Showing: Meridian

Talk to us

More in Life

Shawn McQuiller of Kool & The Gang performs at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, on Sunday, May 8, 2022, in New Orleans. (Photo by Amy Harris/Invision/AP)
Music, theater and more: What’s happening in Snohomish County

Kool & The Gang and Average White Band are coming soon to a casino near you. Queensryche also is due in Arlington.

Preston Brust, left, and Chris Lucas of LOCASH perform during CMA Fest 2022 on Thursday, June 8, 2022, at the Chevy Riverfront Stage in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo by Amy Harris/Invision/AP)
Music, theater and more: What’s happening in Snohomish County

The country music duo Locash drops by the Angel of the Winds Casino on Saturday. And there’s the Summer Meltdown festival at its new home near Snohomish all weekend.

‘Poco Orange’ Red Hot Poker. (Terra Nova Nurseries)
Warmer weather means brighter, hotter colors in the garden

Here are seven plants that will bring a blazing pop of color to your outdoor spaces.

An easy one-mile loop near the visitor center at Seaquest State Park explores the edge of Silver Lake.
(Scott Hewitt/The Columbian)
Discover seven hidden gems not far from the super slab

Weekend trips: Next time you’re making the I-5 slog toward Oregon, check out some of these parks and preserves just off the freeway corridor.

Caption: Now’s a great time to stock up on free Covid tests available to Washington State residents at: https://sayyescovidhometest.org.
COVID-19’s behind her except for a nagging cough

But things might have been much different — in a bad way — without testing and vaccines.

The blended-families challenge requires patience, maturity

Don’t expect miracles — it can be rough going for some time. Get professional help if you need it.

Her Turo rental was repossessed with valuable items inside

When Michelle Marshall’s Turo rental gets repossessed, the car-sharing company offers her a partial refund. But what about her son’s expensive epilepsy medication? Is Turo responsible for that?

Lee Oskar and his dog Tex inside his art studio in his home on Wednesday, March 2, 2022 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Harmonica whiz Lee Oskar is also a pro with a paintbrush

Oskar’s music and art studios are in his Everett home. The former member of the 1970s band War is now 74, and still rocks “Low Rider.”

The 2022 WM Recycle Corps interns are part of WM’s recycling education and outreach team.
WM Recycle Corps interns return after two-year COVID slowdown

The collegiate interns are back in the community to help improve recycling habits and reduce waste.

Caption: At Flight Room in Lynnwood, aerial fitness poses like “vampire” use every muscle in your body.
Fitness takes flight at new aerial studio in Lynnwood

Jennifer Bardsley finds benefits and “silk kisses” from doing aerial yoga at Lynnwood studio.

Photo Caption: This carved shelf brought $2,500 at New Haven Auctions. Decorations and symbols associated with the Odd Fellows add to its appeal.
Odd Fellows iconography adds to this carved shelf’s value

Fun fact: The Odd Fellows is believed to have originated in medieval trade guilds, with “odd fellow” meaning someone who did odd jobs for a living.

The Limelight Prime Panicle Hydrangea. (Proven Winners)
3 new “pee gee” hydrangeas for gardeners to salivate over

These new shrubs boast better flower color and, in some cases, more compact forms that fit better in smaller gardens.