Opening with a poem recited by con artist historian Ricky Jay, Rian Johnson’s follow-up to his first movie, “Brick,” takes off in the first few moments and heads on a whimsical, and entertaining flight.
The movie tells the story of brothers Stephen and Bloom, two life-long con artists. Stephen is the mastermind, working every angle while Bloom is the front man for the operation, running the con. As the story opens, Bloom is entering retirement. He’s tired of living fake lives and stories; he wants to feel a real emotion after a life filled with fakes. Stephen lets him go, knowing Bloom will be back. A few months later, Stephen tracks down Bloom, he’s found the next con that is too good to let up. Penelope is a young woman living a cloistered life in her family’s house, (the largest estate in New Jersey,) and Stephen proposes they move in and practice one of their classic cons. Bloom will find a way to meet her, romance her, and then they’ll involve her in a convoluted scheme to recover a rare book. They’ll head to Romania, home of the book, there’ll be a scuffle and they’ll end up with no book, no money but Penelope will have had the time of her life. And that’s what sort of happens, but, as with most of these stories, one con leads to another. But there’s a twist this time- Bloom falls for Penelope.
Continuing what he started with “Brick”’s character, “The Pin,” Johnson gives the supporting characters entertaining and interesting names. The brother’s father is better known as Diamond Dog, there’s also The Curator, The Duke, and Bang Bang, the explosives expert who speaks very little English, who travels with the brothers.
Set in a world that seems like the present, but with it’s foot also clearly in the past, (characters where suits and hats everywhere, there’s no computers, etc.,) Johnson fills every frame with something eye-catching. There’s a random camel wandering through the frame and Penelope’s collection of hobbies is enormously entertaining. The jokes come fast and furious, with the IFFBoston’s opening night audience laughing through many lines.
The acting is, across the boards, top notch. With each film, I find myself enjoying and delighting in Adrien Brody’s performances, with his weariness and desire to live a normal life an emotional base for the movie’s flights of fancy to take off from. Mark Ruffalo and Rinko Kikuchi are also excellent, playing Stephen and Bang Bang, respectively. And as good as the rest of the cast is, Rachel Weisz is the standout. Showcasing her comedic talent, an oft ignored skill, Weisz’s Penelope is the most unique shut-in. Weisz is clearly reveling in the movie’s silliness, giving Penelope a New Jersey accent that could only be cultivated by spending ample amounts of time alone.
However, the film isn’t perfect. As the story wraps up, the air goes out of the balloon a little, and the movie loses some of it’s whimsy as it races to finish, trying to work out all it’s plot machinations. Johnson admitted as much in a talk given after the movie, the big problem they had in editing was getting the pace and the feel of act three was the movie’s big stumbling block. Even though the ending is a little bumpy, one has to admire and appreciate Johnson’s love of the con. “Bloom,” is practically a love note to swindlers and card sharks.
While it’s not perfect, “The Brothers Bloom,” is an incredibly entertaining and delightful movie. If you’re looking for an entertaining and amusing night out, look no further- “The Brothers Bloom,” is an incredibly good time at the movies. -Sam