The Brothers Bloom
WHAT IT'S ABOUT?
Throughout a troubled childhood in which they moved from one foster home to another, tightly-bonded brothers Stephen and Bloom lived out their lives and fantasies in the elaborate stories Stephen created. But when a grown-up Bloom decides to leave his false lifestyle behind, he agrees to just one more game:
an elaborate con that his brother convinces him will hit paydirt. Together, they invade the world of Penelope, a daffy heiress who agrees to bankroll a (phony) million-dollar "deal" and joins them and their con-in-law, a wacky Japanese explosives expert named Bang Bang, on a cruise ship headed to Greece. But as this oddball quartet roams the globe, Stephen's elaborate plan becomes complicated by sinister characters, unforeseen dangers and the blossoming of a genuine romance between Bloom and Penelope.
WHO'S IN IT?
It's a superlative cast that makes The Brothers Bloom's complex caper work as beautifully as it does. Crucial to the intricate mix is Rachel Weisz as the loopy adventure-seeking Penelope. Not particularly known for lighter fare, this Oscar winner (The Constant Gardener) proves as adept as any great screen comedienne in defining this sweet but trippy character. She provides a delightful anchor for the others, particularly Adrien Brody's (The Pianist) Bloom who, understandably, falls head-over-heals for his "mark." Brody's droopy eyes and hangdog expression are the perfect counterbalance to Weisz's irresistible brio. As Stephen, Mark Ruffalo offers a mixture of bravado and daring, creating a three-dimensional portrait of a classic manipulator whose ideas are careening out of control. Seemingly channeling a combo of Harpo Marx and Raymond Teller, Oscar nominee Rinko Kikuchi's (Babel) nearly silent turn as the weirdly maniacal Bang Bang is consistently hilarious, an inspired casting choice for a wonderful talent who speaks little English in real life. Also adding layers of darkness to the light-hearted con are Maximilian Schell (Judgment at Nuremberg) as a wicked mentor and Robbie Coltrane (the Harry Potter films) as the mysterious Curator.
In his blazingly inventive debut, the high school noir thriller Brick, writer/director Rian Johnson proved he had a strong ear for adapting a classic movie format in a quirky, contemporary fashion. Using a Dirty Rotten Scoundrels/Stingstyle background this time out, he not only creates a clever new cinematic con game but spices it up with some wildly amusing screwball comedy on top of an emotional and engaging look at the unbreakable bond of two brothers at a crucial intersection in their lives. The glamorous European locations and spot-on casting add flavor and style to Johnson's very accomplished and supremely sophisticated sophomore effort. The film's opening sequence, which chronicles the brothers' chaotic childhood and sets up the underlying theme of family ties, is also inspired.
As with many flicks of this genre, things have a tendency to get convoluted, which could frustrate some audiences not into the minutia of the "con." Also, Johnson's dazzling but highly stylized dialogue, somewhat reminiscent of the kind of thing Wes Anderson (The Darjeeling Limited, The Life Aquatic) does so well, is probably an acquired taste and could grate on the nerves if you can't get on the filmmaker's wavelength. Can you say "quirky?"
A GOOD RULE TO LIVE BY?
In one of Bang Bang's rare lines, she offers this memorable tidbit of life advice: "When you're done with something, blow it up." This girl has clearly seen too many summer movies!
NETFLIX OR MULTIPLEX?
If you're looking for something different during blockbuster May, this is more than worth a trip to the cinema.
Hollywood.com rated this film 3 1/2 stars.