The Brothers Bloom

I’m not quite sure how The Brothers Bloom slipped past me without me noticing. It’s the kind of charming film that would ordinarily catch my attention and yet somehow it didn’t. The Brothers Bloom is the story of two brothers who are profoundly affected by their parentless childhoods and essentially spend their adult years living out elaborate fantasies in the form of con games. The older Bloom, Stephen, writes the stories and the younger Bloom, known simply as Bloom, is the hero of the stories, bringing in the marks and making it all happen.

The beginning of the film is just about perfect. It starts with a quick rundown showing the boys being rejected from prospective home after prospective home, as they grow ever more cynical. (And who can blame them? Rejection is hard enough when you’re grown but when you’re young and your safety and wellbeing depends on being accepted how much worse is it?) Next we see the boys in an idyllic town where they don’t really try and fit in. The privileged town children all eat a certain treat while the brothers scorn it and go for something completely different. The two are a united front against the entire town until Bloom sees a girl and falls for her so hard he can’t catch his breath.

He also can’t talk to her. But Stephen has a plan… A complicated plan that will also net them some cash, involve a mythical hobo, a haunted cave and spark the imaginations of every kid in town. It will also result in them getting sent back yet again; this time for larceny. And so their course is set. They have money in their pocket and a way to feel superior, which may not be as good as finding a home but is better than feeling like they aren’t good enough to fit in.

We skip ahead in time until Bloom is in his thirties and suddenly realizes he is deeply unhappy with living out his brother’s stories. After the obligatory I hate you/I love you speech he storms off, swearing never again. Three months later he agrees to one last big job – conning a reclusive wealthy woman he’s instructed not to fall in love with. And so begins what may be the greatest con of all.

I’m sorry to say the rest of the film doesn’t live up to its brilliant opening. It’s kind of uneven and I was confused by character reaction to some of the events in the film. I think sometimes when one person writes and directs they can be blind to flaws because they’re so busy being true to their vision. We can all benefit from input and ideas about the directions our stories are taking. Rian Johnson is a talented writer and director but maybe had some blind spots with this project. Or maybe it’s just me. I’m working hard to avoid a spoiler, so let’s just say something in particular happens that made me lose my suspension of disbelief. These brothers really love each other and suddenly they behave in a way that makes no sense given their deep connection.

If you can look past the weaknesses, which isn’t that hard to do, the Brothers Bloom is quite enjoyable. Adrien Brody, who plays Bloom, has always given me the willies but in this film he is compelling, albeit mopey. Mark Ruffalo does a fine job as Stephen, Rachel Weisz lights up the screen as the reclusive rich mark and Rinko Kikuchi is spot on as the enigmatic Bang Bang (called the brothers’ fifth Beetle by Stephen at one point.)

One-Paragraph Review
This week's one-paragraph review is from So Say We All who writes in to say, "Did you hear Caprica was canceled? I guess smart television is too scary to keep on teevee. From now on I stick to video games and reading." Do you have a one-paragraph (or smaller) review you'd like to share? Send it in to me for consideration. You can reach me at feedback@qualitytimeweekly.com.