I’m not sure if I am going to have my film reviewers membership card yanked for saying this, but The Brothers Bloom was one of the most delightful, entertaining films I have seen so far this year. That’s right, no complaints, no “but…”, just a straight out positive review of a film that works beautifully on so many levels.
The first of these levels is that in a bold move the distribution company released a “preview” trailer that I recall watching a few months ago, the first seven minutes of the movie. You can still find it online with a bit of Google help I watched it – it’s very wry and amusing, you should watch it too – and I recall thinking “nice, I want to see that film”.
Problem was, the film is an indie, released by Summit Entertainment during the beginning of the summer “tentpole” season and it hasn’t gotten any visibility against such blockbusters as Star Trek, Night at the Museum II, Terminator Salvation and more. Which is too bad, because in many ways I think that The Brothers Bloom is a much better example of the art of film making, from its acting to its focus on storyline, to its witty segues and exotic locales.
A few days ago I noticed it was still playing in the local theater, stuck on the small screen at the local cineplex against the blockbusters, and on the strength of the seven minute preview trailer that Summit had released, I went to see it.
And I’m really glad I did.
The movie is a great addition to the con or caper film genre (other splendid examples of this genre are the brilliant Nine Queens (its poster is part of the background of this very blog, if you look closely) and The Spanish Prisoner). I have a soft spot for this type of film and really enjoy a well plotted movie where we can’t assume that we understand what’s going on or who is or isn’t in on the caper.
Some of the bigger modern films that have been in this space include Ocean’s 11 (and 12, and 13, ad nauseam) and the more entertaining The Italian Job, but a good caper film is understated and doesn’t feel the need to explain everything that happens, why characters do or don’t make particular decisions and why things mesh in the end.
The Brothers Bloom is a splendid example of this, where things happen and you’re not exactly sure why or how they’ll play out but it just doesn’t matter. The film starts with two orphan boys, Bloom (played wonderfully by Zachary Gordon) and Chris (played by Max Records) pulling off a surprisingly layered con in a small non-descript “one hat” town somewhere in the American midwest. Zoom forward and the two boys are adults now played by Adrien Brody (Bloom) and Mark Ruffalo (Chris) and they’re trying to figure out their next con, each planned with a storyboard by Chris.
Along the way Chris has picked up “Bang Bang”, an enigmatic Japanese sidekick (played most amusingly by Rinko Kikuchi) and Bloom has quit the con business, holing up at a comically remote tiny island in Montenegro. Chris finds him and convinces him to come out to New Jersey for “one last con” (a classic line in these films, of course). There he finds out that the “mark” is the incredibly wealthy, highly eccentric Penelope Stamp (played by the always-lovely Rachel Weisz).
Bloom falls in love with Penelope even as he’s supposed to make her fall in love with him and stake the con that slowly unfolds in the film. A cornerstone of all cons is that you don’t fall in love with the mark, so there’s some friction between Chris and Bloom as they plan out the caper.
Along the way one of my favorite Brit comedians, Robbie Coltrane, has a delightful supporting role as “The Curator” and they even have Maximilian Schell in a small role as the brother’s former mentor and now enemy (or is he?) “Diamond Dog”. Both are consummate actors and are a delight to watch, though I wish Schell would have had a role with a bit more meat: his character was very poorly developed.
The con unfolds, Penelope pays a significant sum for what might – or might not – be a worthless prop antique, the brothers fight and one gets shot – or does he? – and the story unfolds in a delightful, steady pace that keeps us entertained and amused both.
I’ll highlight two additional features of the film that I particularly enjoyed: the wardrobe was terrific, and the use of foreground/background framing for throwaway scenes was brilliant, effective and oft-hilarious. In particular, when we first meet Penelope she’s driving a bright yellow Lamborghini, poorly, and, well, I won’t ruin it, but it’s incredibly funny how she parks her car in front of her massive estate.
Finally, I’ll end as I started. This was a delightful film, romantic, funny as heck, thoughtful and thought-provoking. There were moments in the story that begged for explanation, but there was no explanation and it was just fine, because the film is self-referentially about characters who aren’t who they seem to be and who create the story that they are but players within.
Go see it. You’ll thank me.