The Brother’s Bloom is a strange little film. It has no pretensions to be anything other than a bright and breezy piece of fun. And in a business where as reviewers we can spend ages analysing for sub text, and dissecting cinema as art – sometimes it’s nice to remind ourselves that films primarily exist to entertain.
The film opens on a group of children playing, and quickly we focus on young brothers Stephen and Bloom as they pull of their first con. Their roles thus being defined early on, they continue with this lifestyle on into adulthood where Stephen is played by Mark Ruffalo and Bloom by Adrien Brody. When we meet them in adulthood, the younger Bloom is fed up with the lifestyle and wants out. He is fed up with living a life that is nailed down to the second, always planned and never spontaneous. He wants to live a more exciting life so he quits the team. Stephen gives him a few months to cool down and they persuades him back for one last con – the perfect one which is going to define them. They are going to target a rich, eccentric woman called Penelope (Rachel Weisz) but as one would imagine in a film such as this, Bloom starts to develop feelings for her. This starts to lead to conflict within his mind and as they get closer so she gets drawn ever deeper into the world that the brothers have created.
The thing that makes the film so successful is the tightrope that the director Rian Johnson walks. The film is generally very light in tone, and the comedic moments are really quite old fashioned in their execution. You know what is going to happen, but it is performed with such perfect timing that it cannot help but suck you in. Penelope’s yellow Ferrari shoots past in the background of a scene and you just know there’s going to be an off-screen prang and so there is. But the timing of it still makes you laugh. The tightrope comes, however, when he has to add other elements – and he does this so well. The romantic bolero that Bloom and Penelope share on the deck of their boat under the stars, the occasional action scenes, and even some tragedy – all is mixed in perfectly so that no aspect of the production is allowed to overshadow the rest. Some may feel that this actually means that the film lacks a consistent tone but to me it means that it works very well, and manages to add a little surprise for the audience in what is essentially a pretty derivative story.
The performances are as strong as you would expect from such a solid, if not too starry, cast. Brody does a very good job as the con man who develops a conflict within himself – managing to portray his confusion in a pleasingly subtle way. He shares a chemistry with Weisz that is always believable but not in the showy Hollywood way that we are used to seeing on screen. Instead their relationship is given time to be allowed to develop naturally within the structure of the film, and the two spark naturally off each other. Weisz portrays a character who is changed forever during her life with the brothers, coming out of her shell and starting to embrace the very life that Bloom wants to leave. She is always likeable and believable – yet very different from her roles in The Mummy and The Constant Gardener.
Against the central relationship of these two characters, Mark Ruffalo delivers an anchoring performance as Stephen, the dominant older brother who has been in that position for so long he never expected to find himself losing control. He plays the role with a nice lightness of touch that never sees his arc becoming too sober.
Perhaps the biggest complement I can pay the film, however, is that it single handedly disproves the adage “They don’t make ‘em like this any more”. The director mentions his influences as the old-fashioned heist and con movies of the forties and fifties and these shine all the way through the film. The film is never explicit when it needs to refer to sex or violent moments within the script – suggesting plenty without showing anything. The only slight surprise in the film is the ending which does show a rather abrupt change of tone, and is not completely in keeping with the rest of the movie. Personally I really like the ending, it raises a fluffy concoction into something that stays in your head after the credits have finished rolling and when you actually stop and think about it, the ending is actually perfect for the film, tying up plenty of loose ends. The enigmatic ending is actually not at all confusing if you simply remember some of the lines from earlier on in the film.
So that is The Brother’s Bloom in a nutshell. It is not great art, or a cinematic classic. What it is , though, is a thoroughly enjoyable 2 hour romp with actors who sell their roles perfectly, and a nicely balanced story that crosses from humour to pathos and back again with a surety of touch which is very welcome. You end up caring for the characters and having a lot of fun. This is not normally my kind of film and sat down to watch it with trepidation. I came out of it having thoroughly enjoyed the experience, and if that isn’t worth at least a rental then I don’t know what is!
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