Whimsical, sentimental, colorful, and both funny and awkward, THE BROTHERS BLOOM is original in its context and characters even if the plot itself is relatively predictable. The tale of two brothers who learn at an early age their skill at pulling off confidence schemes (all in the film's well designed and funny first 10 minutes). They continue to run cons into their early thirties when Bloom (Brody), the younger of the two, is faced with a bit of a quarter-life-crisis and decides to quit conning alongside his older brother Stephen (Mark Ruffalo). Of course he returns on the premise of helping Stephen carry off 'one last job,' the most glaringly cliched element in the entire film. All is forgiven however as the cast of characters unfolds, and director Rian Johnson rolls out more story arc. We meet Bang Bang (Rinko Kikuchi), a semi-mute Asian woman with a penchant for blowing things to pieces and Penelope Stamp (Rachel Weisz), a billionaire heiress & collector of strange hobbies. Weisz is convincingly awkward, funny, intelligent, and ultimately lovable. Weisz, Brody, and Ruffalo give good performances but are still all outclassed by Rinko Kikuchi's portrayal of Bang Bang. She communicates much with few to no words. She is the master of the subtle facial expression and she singlehandedly raised this film from 3 stars to 4 for this viewer.
Rian Johnson's directorial style resembles Wes Anderson's, but with more of a penchant for sweetness. THE BROTHERS BLOOM is littered with sentimental twists, moments, and visuals. Johnson's craft is still developing, with his this, his sophomore effort, falling slightly short of his wonderful first film Brick. The gentle goodnaturedness of the film is surprisingly refreshing in a movie marketplace littered with grit, angst, and cynicism. I think this is why the film scored so poorly with paid reviewers; they were too afraid of seeming soft by liking the movie and being branded as 'sentimental.' The film has a sweetness to it that may turn off some viewers, but to me is was a nice change of pace from the typical Hollywood offering.
As the film progresses it does a decent enough job of not revealing too much and providing the viewer a plausible suspension of disbelief. There are a few moments that don't ring true (the first encounter with Diamond Dog at the bar for example--actually I didn't like the Diamond Dog character at all and thought he was superfluous to the plot and movie as a whole) but they are few and far between. My strongest criticism of the film is that Johnson, Brody, and the rest of the cast know how clever certain elements of the film are, and they let the audience know that they know. Clever is fine, but I don't need to be reminded every ten minutes that the movie is oh so smart. Another confusing plot element is Penelope's seeming inability to drive a sports car--this from a woman who has mastered more than a few difficult hobbies including pinhole photography and martial arts!
Overall this is a very enjoyable movie if you appreciate warmth in film. It's sentimental. It's bright and fun and intelligent. Viewers who prefer their cinema to be dark and brooding should probably skip this one and watch Mystic River or The Dark Knight instead. However, if you loved The Life Aquatic you'll probably love THE BROTHERS BLOOM.
4/5 Stars. Well worth renting or even owning.