"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

Artist Michelle Downes prepares to work on a few canvases in her garage workspace on Thursday, July 6, 2023, at her family’s home in Stanwood, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Stanwood artist Michelle Downes creates layered dreamscapes in resin

Resin is one part chemistry and one part artistry. Downes combines the two to make art that captures the imagination.

Kotor's zigzagging town wall rewards climbers with a spectacular view. (Cameron Hewitt / Rick Steves' Europe)
Rick Steves: Just south of Dubrovnik lies unpolished Montenegro

One of Europe’s youngest nations offers dramatic scenery, locals eager to show off their unique land, and a refreshing rough-around-the-edges appeal.

Dark gray wheels and black exterior accents provide extra visual appeal for the 2024 Subaru Impreza’s RS trim. (Subaru)
2024 Subaru Impreza loses a little, gains a lot

The brand’s compact car is fully redesigned. A couple of things are gone, but many more have arrived.

TSR image for calendar
Music, theater and more: What’s happening in Snohomish County

This weekend in Snohomish: The Snohomish Blues Invasion and the Snohomish Studio Tour 2023.

Made by Bruce Hutchison, the poster for “A Momentary Diversion on the Road to the Grave” is an homage to 1985 classic “The Goonies.” (Photo provided)
Indie film premiering on Whidbey Island

Filmed almost entirely on Whidbey Island, “A Momentary Diversion on the Road to the Grave” is set to premiere in Langley.

TSR image only
Does your elementary school child have ADHD?

It’s important to identify children with this condition so we can help them succeed in school.

The 2023 Infiniti QX80 has standard rear-wheel drive and optional four-wheel drive available on all models. (Infiniti)
2023 Infiniti QX80 is powerful and posh

A mighty V8 engine does the work while a luxurious interior provides the pleasure.

This photo provided by OceanGate Expeditions shows a submersible vessel named Titan used to visit the wreckage site of the Titanic. In a race against the clock on the high seas, an expanding international armada of ships and airplanes searched Tuesday, June 20, 2023, for the submersible that vanished in the North Atlantic while taking five people down to the wreck of the Titanic. (OceanGate Expeditions via AP)
A new movie based on OceanGate’s Titan submersible tragedy is in the works: ‘Salvaged’

MindRiot announced the film, a fictional project titled “Salvaged,” on Friday.

A clump of flowering ornamental grass or pennisetum alopecuroides in an autumn garden.
My garden runneth over with fountain grasses, and for good reason

These late-blooming perennials come in many varieties. They work well as accents, groundcovers, edgings or in containers.

Most Read