“As far as con man stories go, I think I’ve heard them all.
Of grifters, ropers, faro fixers; tales drawn long and tall.
But if one bears a bookmark in the confidence man’s tome,
‘Twould be that of Penelope, and of The Brothers Bloom.”
The Brothers Bloom is a 2008 film directed by Rian Johnson, starring Adrien Brody, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel Weisz, and Rinko Kikuchi. Johnson is probably better known for his other films (Brick and Looper), his work on three episodes of Breaking Bad (“Fly,” “Fifty-One,” and “Ozymandias”), as well as for being tapped to write and direct Star Wars: Episode VIII. Among all these other highly acclaimed works, The Brothers Bloom often seems to be overlooked. But I, for one, really enjoy this movie.
The film centers around two brothers, Stephen (Ruffalo) and Bloom (Brody), who have gone through life as a pair of successful con men. Stephen, the elder, is the brains of the operation. Bloom, meanwhile, is tired of living his life through the characters he must play as a part of Stephen’s plans. Stephen hears Bloom’s plea for “an unwritten life,” and proposes one last con before parting ways. With help from the secretive Bang Bang (Kikuchi), the brothers focus in on their mark: a reclusive heiress named Penelope (Weisz). The plot takes many twists and turns as it becomes unclear what is actually part of the con, and who is fooling whom.
I really like the aesthetic and general feel of this film. The visual style is such that you cannot pin down when exactly it takes place. It’s quirky without feeling overly twee or unbelievable. While it evokes a similar feeling of magic realism or of the fantastic, The Brothers Bloom is actually fairly grounded in reality. But the use of symbolism, magic tropes, and the like, gives the film a unique feel. The quoted poem with which I began this post is taken from the opening sequence of the movie, which is narrated in verse by magician Ricky Jay. This starts the film off in a way that evokes a fairy tale, which is apropos, as the movie is centered around storytelling via Stephen’s cons.
I know this film is not for everyone. The stylistic choices that I so adore may be too much for some. But if upon reading this blog post you think there’s a chance it might be something you’d enjoy, I highly recommend you give it a watch. For I’ve found The Brothers Bloom to be thoroughly enjoyable, and altogether a delight. It’s heart-warming, it’s poignant, it’s fun. All of the actors put in fantastic performances, the soundtrack by Nathan Johnson is beautiful, and the writing and direction by Rian Johnson, are, as usual, superb. Check it out and let me know what you think!
Disclaimer: All images shown belong to Endgame Entertainment and/or Summit Entertainment, the use of which have not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. This blog post is for non-commercial criticism and comment purposes only. I believe that this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of the copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Law.