I still can’t get over how much I enjoyed Rian Johnson’s “The Brothers Bloom”. Even after hearing nothing but positive reviews from trusted colleagues; even after sitting in awe of Johnson’s previous film, “Brick”; even after every piece of advertising made me more excited to see the film, I am stunned at how “The Brothers Bloom” just plain works. While this may sound like a case of a critic refusing to allow for the possibility of disappointment, Johnson isn’t afraid to open up his film from the very first frame and show you how elegantly it all fits together.
The story follows two brothers, Bloom (Adrien Brody) and Stephen (Mark Ruffalo), who have been con artists ever since they were kids and now Bloom is growing tired of the game while Stephen wants to play it forever. For Stephen, the best con is one “where everyone gets what they want,” and the question becomes how the heartbroken Bloom can get something real when his entire life is based on lies. The answer perhaps lies in the eccentric heiress Penelope (Rachel Weisz) who Stephen picks as “their last mark”. Of course, as with any good con movie, if you think you know what happens next, you’re being conned.
What “Brick” is to noir, “Brothers Bloom” is to con-artist stories. Johnson is a writer/director who innately understanding the conventions of a genre both in terms of its literary and cinematic origins. The literary part of that equation is important because it lends itself so well to the rhythm, character design, and structure of the work while the cinematic style provides nice visual nods and crafts the style and feel of the film. What Johnson has designed with this movie is a rich, vivacious study of artist to creation, finding truth in lies, and doing it all with such stylistic flourish that even as you’re considering these weighty themes, you’re still having the time of your life.