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Movie Review: The Brothers Bloom

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The Brothers Bloom will most likely split audiences down the middle just as it has almost evenly divided critics. Simply put, you either delight in the often whimsical imagination of writer/director Rian Johnson or you dismiss it as precious eye candy. I fall firmly in the former camp. While it would be easy to peg Bloom as a Wes Anderson-ish fable about two con men who endure a Dickensian upbringing which leads them to a career in crime, I find it unlikely that Wes (whom I adore) could ever make a film so willing to be this optimistic.

As the film opens we are introduced to the eponymous brothers through the narration of the great Ricky Jay (one quick complaint about the film -- why not more Ricky Jay?!) Essentially, the circumstances of their childhood have provided the ideal education required to be con men, which the brothers, in fact, become. When we join them as adults -- in the personages of mutual hangdogs Mark Ruffalo and Adrien Brody -- they are apparently at the end of a long, lucrative and -- most of all -- inventive career.

Their putative last con involves scamming a wealthy and slightly loony woman played by the shimmering Rachel Weisz. A thorny complication soon arises, however -- one of the brothers falls in love with her. Or does he? In a movie about con men -- where motivations are always suspect -- you are never really supposed to believe what you are seeing and Johnson has a good deal of fun keeping those narrative balls in the air. Coupling this blossoming romance with an overly complex theft scheme only adds to the general dizziness.

It is within the bounds of this scheme that we are introduced to the film's three other great characters: Robbie Coltrane, Maximilian Schell (both of whom I'd watch doing virtually anything) and the brother's accomplice/demolitions expert, Rinko Kikuchi. One note about her -- those who have only seen her in Babel will be deliciously surprised by her turn as a daffily conceived mute. What the actual scheme is about is almost immaterial -- as I said, it's needlessly complex -- but there is joy in watching everyone attempt to hatch it.

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It's difficult to review a film like The Brothers Bloom because so many of its delights depend on its details and surprising revelations. Obviously, I would encourage anyone to see it. Even those not delighted by Johnson's playfulness, will enjoy its deconstruction of the genres in which it lives. In a sense, it's a romantic comedy, but not a romantic comedy where each relationship moment is virtually pre-ordained. In another sense, it's a con man movie, but a con man movie in which the theft is pointless. In the end, let me just say this: go see it.