The Brothers Bloom (2008).
“The Brothers Bloom,” from writer/director Rian Johnson, is the sort of overly self-conscious, overly quirky crime caper story that has dominated indie filmmaking since the 1990s. But after nearly 20 years, it’s hardly original anymore.
The Bloom brothers are Stephen (Mark Ruffalo) and Bloom (Adrien Brody), a pair of grifters who travel across Europe staging elaborate cons with the help of their mysterious accomplice Bang Bang (Rinko Kikuchi). Bloom has a bout of conscience and wants to get out of the racket. But Stephen pulls him back in to work one last con on eccentric American millionaire recluse Penelope (Rachel Weisz). However, their carefully crafted plans soon fall apart as Penelope turns out to be more than they can handle, and Bloom falls in love.
As you might guess from the blatant James Joyce references, this is a movie with artistic aspirations. But Johnson is no Joyce, of course, and his stabs at profundity just come off as pretentious.The tone swings wildly from quirky comedy to serious drama but never quite adds up to a cohesive whole.
The lone bright spot is Brody, who is excellent as always and is the only one in the cast to invest his role with any sort of three-dimensional vitality. Ruffalo and Weisz — two indie favorites who manage to get a lot of work with their solid but unremarkable performances — stay true to form with their solid but unremarkable work here. And then there are old warhorses Maximilian Schell and Robbie Coltrane, who are wasted in bit parts.
Johnson tries to sanctify the honesty that can come from lying as he constructs cons within cons, blurring the line between grifter and mark. But in the end it’s the audience that will feel like the biggest mark of all.
Penelope gets off on the thunderstorm.
For the montage early in the film in which Penelope shows off her skills in playing various instruments, juggling, break dancing and riding a unicycle and skateboard, Weisz learned all of those skills specifically for that scene — which lasts less than five minutes.
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