Almost a year ago now I witnessed The Brothers Bloom
in the London Film Festival. Instead of publishing a review there and then, I decided to focus on other releases and pass this one by. In the past year many positive reviews have surfaced and I decided finally to put my (almost opposite) opinion in there with the mix.
The Brothers Bloom are the best con men in the world, swindling millionaires with complex scenarios of lust and intrigue. Now they've decided to take on one last job - showing a beautiful and eccentric heiress the time of her life with a romantic adventure that takes them around the world.
Written and directed by the same man (Rian Johnson), The Brothers Bloom (TBB) comes across as a tale scrawled by a teenager. I say this because no character is sufficiently developed and despite their foibles are not played out entertainingly enough onscreen.
When you think of a confidence trickster flick, you think of a slick twisty tale of deception and ultimately: entertainment. Even the not so successful ones had this one right (including the critic-hated Dirty Rotten Scoundrels). However TBB plays out in the most un-slick way you could ever imagine.
The first twenty minutes are entertaining of all though, with the introduction of the highly kooky Penelope (an eccentric epileptic). There are several laugh out loud moments to be gained from her presence. Unfortunately as soon as she joins the brothers her character takes a dive for the worse and we are left wandering around the film with a protagonist who simply doesn’t want to be there.
made the world pay attention for his role in The Pianist (where he played a wimpy but talented musician). He then made the world forget that goodness by appearing in the overlong and painfully uninteresting King Kong. Perhaps it is his style which makes the man look like he has smoked five-to-many reefers and isn’t really there!
He is aptly held up figuratively and literally by Rachel Weisz
who was sensible not to return for another Mummy sequel but was ignored of her talents int this film throughout. Weisz does slightly eccentric (kooky if you will) very well and despite offering an excellent start she is almost reduced to a passive follower soon after.
who seems to have impressed the world with only one performance in recent years (that of Zodiac – another film that I found immensely dull) manages to make his performance annoying. He is the like the prankster in the playground who no-one finds funny; the magician in the bar that is incapable of doing a trick correctly. In essence he is the most unimpressive conman ever placed on screen. Now this in itself is a refreshing change and so the lack of character cannot really be blamed on Ruffalo, but this is my review and I am going to blame him dammit! He should know better!
Another example of how the film feels written by a teenager is the fact that even the chemistry between Weisz and Brody’s character is written badly. Perhaps this was intentional throughout the screenwriting process as it was yet to be decided whether Bloom (Brody’s character) did actually love her or not. But to be fair, Brody was incapable of convincing the audience of it and also the character of Penelope (Rachel Weisz), so this argument holds up even less!
Now at this point, many will consider that I am not focussing on the nods to other con-films. In truth, I don’t give a flying stuff
what came before this film in terms of quality. Why should the odd homage make any difference to the entertainment factor? It shouldn’t. I don’t care if it follows along the same lines of a historical character (symbolism at its best). It doesn’t change the fact that this was ultimately boring!
When watching a con-film, by the halfway mark you start looking for irregularities in search of a twist. Naturally we all expect it; after living a life on Matchstick Men, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and the like. By the halfway point of The Brothers Bloom you simply don’t care enough to look.
Reality is simply thrown in the bin when the plot requires for the film to reveal some exposition. We are introduced to a conman’s bar where people talk openly of their present “jobs”. I’m not so convinced this to be absolutely spot-on as there should be only one rule for a con-artist: never trust them. Put them all in a bar and let them boast to each other and before you know it every single con-artist is invading the other person’s job. It all gets much too confusing. This is only a small example of how reality is simply shunted aside but let me assure you that if you are expecting reality, The Brothers Bloom is the wrong place.
This is a great shame as The Brothers Bloom had set itself up to be an entertaining flick. Sadly it reads better on paper than onscreen. If only Brody had looked like he was sober. If only Rachel Weisz had continued her kookiness throughout the twenty minute mark. If only Ruffalo had only a gnat’s whisker of screen presence. It could have been great. Instead it just sounded like another churned out story which is so focussed on nods to better films that it forgets its own is utter rubbish!
Watch Dirty Rotten Scoundrels instead. That will at least make you laugh in the right places and is worth watching again. Three solid performers are reduced to unsophisticated, un-slick, uninteresting individuals who are playing out in a tale that was written by a twelve year old boy (it wasn’t; it just feels like it most of the time).
Rating: 2 out of 5