Movie Review: "The Brothers Bloom"--ReFocus

5/23/2010 Posted by Admin

Movie Review: Refocus

"The Brothers Bloom"

By our guest blogger, John Shannon

Editor's note: With new movies coming out every Friday, new DVDs every Tuesday, and nearly a hundred years worth of film history to draw from, it’s easy for some titles to get lost in the shuffle. “ReFocus” is a weekly column detailing a film that for one reason or another deserves revisiting. Whether it’s simply providing further context or taking a second look at a misplaced classic, we’re here to continue the conversation and give films their proper view.

This week…
"The Brothers Bloom"

“He writes his cons the way dead Russians write novels.”

In 2005, writer/director Rian Johnson came to indie fame when his high school-set noir, “Brick,” was the talk of Sundance. The film won him the Special Jury Prize for Originality of Vision and Johnson soon began work on his next feature, “The Brothers Bloom.”

Starring Adrien Brody, Rachel Weisz and Mark Ruffalo, “The Brothers Bloom” is a comic con-man tale that twists and turns with snappy dialogue and brisk set pieces.

Ruffalo and Brody are Stephen and Bloom, two con-men who are famous amongst the underworld for their ingenuity, skill and the tendency to only work with a particular crew only once before moving on.

Stephen is the brains of the operation, and Bloom usually takes center stage in his brother’s schemes. But Bloom becomes tired of having every action planned out for him, losing sight of whom he truly is. He tries to leave but his brother snares him into one last score, the target being a withdrawn millionaire by the name of Penelope.

Due to her reclusive nature, Penelope has the eager naïve qualities of a child, and Bloom finds her to be a similar spirit. The two have never been able to discover their true selves due to outside forces, and as the con is set in place the pair begin to fall for one another.

While Johnson sets the stage for typical romantic comedy fare, something darker brims beneath the surface and these characters aren’t all that they seem. When all the cards are finally laid upon the table, the result is a complex story that is similar to well layered literature. This is one ambitious film with big ideas in mind, and while it doesn’t always connect, the charm and wit on display masks the shortcomings.

At its base, however, is the study of an “unwritten life,” one lived within the moment where we can achieve whatever we want without predispositions and labels being thrust upon us. Bloom and Penelope are a couple who seek this ability, and Johnson argues as to how possible this ideal really is.
The cinematography is clear and crisp, far brighter then the overcast hues that painted “Brick.” Visually playful, Johnson can match each witty exchange with a creative camera movement. Standout sequences include the film’s prologue that explains the brothers’ origin and a memorable ride on a train across country.

The ensemble cast works well together, and Rachel Weisz is the definite standout. Penelope is the strongest character in the film, and Weisz captures the comedy and drama inherent to Penelope’s upbringing perfectly. Gorgeous, as always, one can’t help but fall in love with her and her enthusiasm for finally being released upon the world.

Another highlight of the film is its score, composed by Johnson’s cousin Nathan Johnson. It's the rare score that works not only within the context of the film but also by itself in your iPod as you do homework or a workout. It's made up of many great pieces of music, ranging from a love theme for Penelope and Bloom to a Heist theme for the whole gang. It is pitch perfect throughout the movie, never overbearing but instead enhancing the viewer’s experience.

With this and “Brick” behind him, one can only look forward to Rian Johnson’s next film, reportedly a time-travelling adventure film entitled “Looper.” With this much talent on hand, he hopefully won’t disappoint.

What do you think? Half the fun is getting in on the conversation, so sound off in the comments below. Whether you agree or disagree your opinion is welcome, and we’d love to hear it.

John Shannon can be reached at

Next week on ReFocus: “The Thief and the Cobbler”

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