In a summer full of dumber-than-dumb spectacles, and subtext-free action-porn, “The Brothers Bloom” is a breath of fresh air.
With wit, warmth and beautiful settings galore, the film creates a delightfully wacky alternate world full of whimsy, romance and adventure.
At the beginning of the film, we meet two orphaned brothers, Stephen Bloom (Mark Ruffalo) and Bloom Bloom (Adrien Brody). From the age of 10, the brothers develop their skills as con artists, always spinning yarns and creating characters, inventing new and increasingly elaborate ways of conning people out of house and home. Everything changes when Bloom decides to get out of the game and Stephen lures him in for one last swindle: a beautiful and quirky millionaire (Rachel Weisz) who yearns for a taste of adventure.
“The Brothers Bloom” is the second feature from writer-director Rian Johnson. He previously took the indie world by storm with his award-winning debut, “Brick.” As with “Brick,” Johnson again takes elements of several fallow genres and remixes them into something that feels both new and old all at once. The result is nothing short of magical. The characters pop off the screen and the dialogue and images loop back in on themselves making winking references that are sure to inspire fits of giggles from anyone who stayed awake during AP Literature. But even if you don’t recognize the title as a Dostoevsky reference, the film is sure to entertain.
At the center of it all is Brody, who is given the task of playing the straight man during the film’s increasingly convoluted comic twists and turns. Perpetually at his side is Ruffalo, who has great fun playing the off-the-wall yet always sincere idea-man who writes schemes the way Russians write novels. The chemistry between the duo is infectious. It’s like the two have known each other for their entire lives. They could not look less similar, and yet one never questions their bond.
Weisz is absolutely electric as the object of Brody’s affection and the subject of Ruffalo’s confidence game. She plays the kind of bubbly, strange woman that really only exists in movies but is imbued with a quiet sadness that grounds the entire picture and ensures that the more surreal elements never take too much of a hold on the film.
Though there is only one large-scale explosion, “The Brothers Bloom” demands the big-screen treatment. It was filmed all over Europe and South America and the locations are used to great effect. These aren’t sound stages, and it really makes a difference. Every shot is impeccably framed: It’s as if Hal Ashby shot “The Sting.”
The film is not for all tastes. It requires attention from the viewer and plays at a leisurely pace compared to many films currently in theaters. Some of the more action-oriented beats don’t quite gel with the rest of the film, but for those who can appreciate a story that gives itself room to breathe, and for those willing to forgive the overly long third act, there is plenty to love.
Most of the movies coming out over the next few months are simply product: attractive, eye-catching and ultimately little more than 90-minute advertisements for the sequel. Not so with “The Brothers Bloom.” If you’ve got a girlfriend and you owe her a decent date movie, you can’t do much better than this. If you have a boyfriend and you don’t want to make him suffer through “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past,” this is a great choice. If you’ve already seen all the action spectaculars, here’s something else to see. Or, you know, if you just like good movies…
“The Brothers Bloom” is currently in limited release, but will open wide tomorrow.