93. The Brothers Bloom (2009)

Sleight of charm

6/10
Directed by: Rian Johnson
Written by: Rian Johnson
Starring: Rachel Weisz, Adrien Brody and Mark Ruffalo

The Brothers Bloom has a consistent sense of the spectacular. It’s performative, it’s flashy, quirky and downright charming. What it lacks for in character, it makes up in its acting. What it lacks for in dialogue, it makes up for in visual direction. But as the plot cons us time after time that it’s going to be something exciting and adorably clever, only to leave us disappointed in when the credits roll, The Brothers Bloom can’t trick us into thinking it was anything as original as it tried to look.

Left: Adrien Brody can do no wrong, Right: Ruffalo's alright, Centre: This character desperately needs a rewrite.

Stephen (Ruffalo) and Bloom (Brody) are two con artist brothers who travel far and wide with a Japanese sidekick, Bang Bang, with cleverly crafted performances that can fool people into giving them money, falling in love with them and send them around the world without so much as an idea as to what they were just tricked into. But when Stephen convinces Bloom to take one last job, they take on a wealthy epileptic photographer by the name of Penelope, who becomes so involved in their con that Bloom can’t help but fall madly in love with her.

While the themes of brotherly love, trying to live an independent life and finding love work in favour of The Brothers Bloom, the characters –  save for Brody’s Bloom – lack a depth and distinctive sense of individuality despite the lengths Johnson went in making them eccentric. Weisz fails to make the odd Penelope likeable and Ruffalo seems to lack screen time for a role that deserves more detail and exposure.

Pushing for an aesthetic that mimics European films, or Wes Anderson-esque visuals, The Brothers Bloom pulls tricks from its sleeves in the form of physical comedy, fancy dress-ups and exotic locations. But as no amount of effort from the wardrobe and art department can make up for the winding story and not-so-clever dialogue (despite its delivery that tries to disguise it as so), The Brothers Bloom lacks the substance it needs to be a complete feature that is cute, fun and as clever as the brothers are supposed to be. Or so I’m told by the voice over.

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