The Brothers Bloom
The critical success of Rian Johnson’s Brick gave him a lot of freedom for his second feature film The Brothers Bloom. Unfortunately, like a lot of other directors, with this new found freedom of better actors, and a higher budget, this writer/director fell into some of the same pitfalls as directors like Guy Ritchie: all style, very little substance. Johnson himself stated that he based his three main characters on those of Homer’s Odyssey. If this isn’t representative of his expectations for his film, I don’t know what is.
The performances are first rate. Mark Ruffalo plays Stephen, the brother of Bloom, who is played by Adrien Brody. They’re the core of a con team, surrounded by other, random characters. One of the most prevalent is Bang Bang, played almost wordlessly by Rinko Kikuchi (Babel). Despite Bloom’s shallow protests that the con game isn’t for him any more, Stephen and Bang Bang convince him to do one final score. The mark is Penelope (Rachel Weisz), a terrifically wealthy, orphaned shut-in with nothing better to do than to collect hobbies.
Johnson’s writing has an edge to its humor that will sufficiently entertain most viewers throughout the length of film. The actors have the skill and the know-how to pull off his sometimes cheesy punchlines, but whether he takes the high road, or the low, Johnson will get his laughs. However, there are two main problems with the rest of Brothers. The first is Johnson thinking himself much more clever than he actually is. He exhibits this with bloated dialogue. For example, Stephen, near the beginning of the film, states that he believes Bang Bang only knows a total of three words of English, and that’s exactly the number of words she utters (except when she’s singing karaoke. And despite his attempts at subtle foreshadowing, he basically gives away the entire final scene, fifteen minutes into the film.
The second problem is Johnson’s attempt at gravitas. Yes, Brick was dark, and serious, and was very well done. But the shallowly developed characters in Brothers makes it a very difficult pill to swallow when we’re expected to let this very flat, naive characters switch paces between manic, and hilarious, to complex humans full of strengths, weaknesses and emotions. This problem takes away from the very climactic final that Johnson expects us to eat up.
The Brothers Bloom is fantastic summer fare, but shouldn’t be considered as anything more than that.