Toronto Review: Rian Johnson's The Brothers Bloom
by Alex Billington
September 10, 2008
Style, substance, comedy, romance, suspense, explosions, guns, con men, Belgians, Russians, Lamborghinis, harps, and everything in between. I don't know how Rian Johnson does it, but he's done it again. The Brothers Bloom is a con film, in short, and is colorfully entertaining and immensely quirky, eclectic, and brilliant, to say the very least. From Brick to Brothers Bloom, Johnson is a very young filmmaker that exudes raw creativity and here yet again it really shows to the fullest extent. To be honest, it was quite confusing, just like Brick, but within the rather short 109 minutes, I was convinced - this was fantastic and pure cinematic storytelling at its finest. Bravo on another success Rian Johnson, bravo!
Brothers Stephen (Mark Ruffalo) and Bloom (Adrien Brody) have been con men all their life. This story takes place in a fantastical world where these two brothers can pull of whimsical and elaborate cons, a world you've got to believe in to accept. They're joined by explosives expert Bang Bang (Rinko Kikuchi) and together make an unstoppable team capable of pulling off conning anyone, anywhere. But when Bloom tries to retire and live an "unwritten life," Stephen tricks him into one last con involving Penelope Stamp (Rachel Weisz), an innocent "rich bitch" who grew up alone. Bloom starts to fall in love with Penelope and must figure out whether he's nearing the end of it all or if it's all just a big con he's in.
If you're a bit confused by the story, don't worry, you're not alone, I was too. The only flaw I could find in Brothers Bloom was with the story and how confusing it became. But because this is Rian Johnson, I let it slide and enjoyed everything else that this fine film had to offer. Like with Brick, it took numerous viewings before I could fully understand everything that happened, and for that matter, why it all happened. That's definitely the same with The Brothers Bloom, but that's not to say it's not enjoyable on the first viewing. In fact, I found so much to like anyway, that when the credits started rolling, I had forgotten that the story was so confusing and just smiled. Johnson achieves pure cinematic bliss in that final act.
There are a few things from The Brothers Bloom that really stood out - namely the acting and the directing. Adrien Brody and Mark Ruffalo were absolutely phenomenal, delivering performances that are now my favorites for each. I don't think Brody has ever been this good, even in Wes Anderson's The Darjeeling Limited or Roman Polanski's The Pianist, but that might just be because I loved his character so damn much. Even Rinko Kikuchi was incredible, often stealing scenes whenever she'd make an appearance. Obviously none of them would've been this good if it weren't for Johnson's direction. It's rare to find a filmmaker that can succeed so well his second time around, but this proves that he's just at the beginning of a lustrous career. Only Rian Johnson can kill a man so elegantly and yet bring him back to life so triumphantly.
Toronto Rating: 8 out of 10