The Brothers Bloom – An Original Cliche

The Brothers Bloom – An Original Cliche

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  1. Rian Johnson is known for his Indie high school film noir Brick (2005) and his mind bending sci-fi action flick Looper (2012)… but have you heard of The Brothers Bloom (2008)?  If you haven’t, you’re not alone.  Many people haven’t heard of it even though it has a well-known cast including Adrien Brody (The Pianist, 2002), Mark Ruffalo (The Avengers, 2012), and Rachel Weisz (The Lovely Bones, 2009).

    What is it about?

    The Brothers Bloom is about two con men, Bloom (Brody) and Stephen (Ruffalo), that happen to be brothers.  They did their first con when Stephen was 13 and Bloom was 10.  It involved a hobo, a cave, a flashlight, and some other stuff… but earned them 30 dollars.

    Now they are adults and they make a living swindling rich people via well thought out plans written by Stephen.  They work closely with an asian woman known as Bang-Bang who doesn’t speak very much but likes to blow things up.  They have been doing this for a while and Bloom is sick of it.  He wants an “unwritten life” instead of always playing a role designed by his brother.  Stephen convinces him to do one more job, though.  The mark is the eccentric, gorgeous, weirdo of a millionaire named Penelope (Weisz).

    The plan involves Bloom sweeping her off her feet and convincing her to go on a trip with them to help steal an ancient manuscript.  She does and she has the time of her life.  Even though Stephen warns Bloom to not fall in love with her, he does… which complicates things.  When the brothers’ old nemesis, Diamond Dog (Maximilian Schell), finds them and gets involved, things take a turn for the worst.  By the end it’s hard to tell who is conning whom, if the brothers are in real danger, or if Bloom will get the girl.  

    Is it any good?

    The basic premise is very cliche:  a con man falls in love with the mark then struggles with the fact that his character is fake, but the feelings are real.  Rian Johnson has written this story in such a way, though, that it is refreshingly original.  The characters are quirky, the situations are interesting, and the assortment of supporting characters are memorable.  Johnson successfully takes an old, trite premise and transforms it into something original.

    Another thing that stands out in this film is its opening.  The film opens with the brothers as young men trying to pull off their first con.  It’s cute and funny, but also very poetic… like a fairytale.  The voiceover and the dialogue flow together in rhyming verse for the first 10 or so minutes of the film, but it doesn’t come off as cheesy and it’s subtle enough that you may not notice it unless you’re listening for it.

    Apart from the troublesome pacing at times and some minor stretches in logic, there is very little that is wrong with this film.  It’s fun, quirky, intermittantly hilarious, filled with great characters, and even has a nice twist at the end.

    Nolan’s Grade:  B

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