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October 13, 2009
Review - " The Brothers Bloom "  -  (on DVD) By Roland Hansen
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The Brothers Bloom
Directed by: Rian Johnson
Starring: Adrien Brody, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel Weisz, Rinko Kikuchi, Robbie

If there’s anything I’ve come to expect from films about con artists, it’s that
the audience is going to be conned along with the characters. That’s just the
way it works. Because I know this to be true, con artist movies tend to
impress me less and less as the years go by; I may not know exactly how I’ll
be tricked, but I do know that a trick is coming. I therefore can’t trust
anything - not the characters, not the plot, and certainly not the visuals. So
it's not surprising that I kept my guard up watching “The Brothers Bloom,”
which gets a huge payoff from continuously misdirecting the audience to the
point where nothing seems credible anymore. Strangely enough, this isn't
that much of a problem in the grand scheme of things. What this movie lacks
in reliability is made up for through quirky performances and a generous
helping of humor.

The director, Rian Johnson, is the clever guy who brought us that fantastic
indie gem "Brick" a few years back. The title is actually a bit of a misnomer,
seeing as Bloom is not the brothers’ family name. It’s actually the first name
of the younger brother, played as an adult by Adrien Brody. The older
brother, played as an adult by Mark Ruffalo, is named Stephen. As children
dressed in black suits and hats, they were continuously sent from one foster
home to another. It’s during this period that Stephen, ever the observant and
thinking-ahead type, plans his first con. Bloom goes along with it, but it quickly becomes apparent that he will only be a
character in one of Stephen’s stories. In other words, Bloom is forced to be only what his brother wants him to be.

The thing is, he doesn’t completely come to terms with how he feels until twenty-five years later, when they both pull off an
elaborate con in Berlin. Bloom finally decides he has had enough and runs off to Montenegro. Somehow, Stephen tracks
him down three months later and talks him into one last con, which begins in New Jersey. Here enters an heiress named
Penelope (Rachel Weisz), a super wealthy recluse who lives alone in
a sprawling mansion that seems inspired by a gothic novel from the
nineteenth century. The brothers’ plan: Pose as art dealers to steal
her family’s liquid assets. What no one counts on is just how
knowledgeable she is for someone so cut off from the world. As she
tells Bloom, she collects hobbies; she sees something she likes, reads
all about it, and just jumps right into doing it. A wonderful montage
shows a wide range of hobbies, from acrobatics to juggling chainsaws
to playing a variety of instruments to installing a surveillance camera
in a hollowed-out watermelon. The only thing she’s not good at is

On a boat trip to Greece, she’s approached by a Belgian man known
only as the Curator (Robbie Coltrane), who mysteriously warns
Penelope that Bloom and Stephen are actually art smugglers. This excites Penelope in a way she’s never been excited
before, and by the time they arrive in Greece, she decides to become a smuggler. She then travels to Prague with the
brothers to steal a rare book hidden somewhere within the city. Little do the brothers realize that they will soon reunite with
Diamond Dog (Maximilian Schell), the man who taught them the tricks of the trade before they all had a falling out.

she does this multiple times. Who else but a well-read observer could pull off something so astounding?

Penelope is such a wonderful eccentric, the kind of person who wants to try everything at least once. She wants to live life
as if it were an adventurestory, which is actually disheartening to Bloom since a story is the very thing he’s trying to escape
from. He also doesn’t want to hurt Penelopebecause--you guessed it--he falls in love with her. Stephen is quick to remind
him that love and conning don’t mix.

I greatly enjoyed Weisz’s performance. She allowed Penelope to be something more than the odd girl with all the strange
hobbies. I also enjoyed Rinko Kikuchi as the brothers’ sidekick,
Bang Bang, a woman who possesses the uncanny ability to appear
and disappear in the blink of an eye. She so rarely speaks; she mostly
just stands next to either Bloom or Stephen, doing mundane but
nonetheless interesting things with various objects. She can also make
explosives, some big, some small. No one can say where she came
from or why she teamed with the brothers. She’s just ... there. As for
Ruffalo and Brody, they do just fine given the intentionally misleading
nature of the plot. That’s also a bit of a problem - I probably would
have liked them better if I had trusted the story. But since I knew from
the start that “The Brothers Bloom” was about con artists, there was
no trust for me to spare.
Mark Ruffalo and Adrien Brody are The Brothers Bloom
Rachel Weisz as Emma Peale?? Wait - this is the Avengers
Rinko Kikuchini packs a big gun in The Brothers Bloom
This is by no means the sum of the plot, but I think it’s best if I stop
describing it at this point. As I already said, nothing about con
artist films can be trusted. Everything that happens seems to be a
piece of a gigantic scheme, only to go in an entirely different
direction. Partly, it has to do with the fact that Penelope doesn’t
know Bloom and Stephen’s real intentions. Or does she? She may
not have much experience with people. She may have been
unfairly quarantined as a child for allergies she never actually had.
She may find the combination of alcohol and a lightning storm
orgasmic. But that doesn’t mean she isn’t observant. A fascinating
scene has her telling Bloom about herself as she performs an
amazing sleight-of-hand card trick; she shuffles the deck so
precisely that she’s able to produce the aces for each suit, and