The Brothers Bloom
They’re not offering to buy us drinks, they think we’re waiters.

Theatrical Release Date: 05/22/2009
Director: Rian Johnson
Cast: Rachel Weisz, Adrien Brody, Mark Ruffalo, Rinko Kikuchi, Robbie Coltrane, Maximilian Schell, Ricky Jay

Do you remember when Oceans 11 came out? You watched and said to yourself, “Wow, that was great, even for a remake.” And then 50 movies like it came out; so, now you hate con artist movies. You heard about “The Brothers Bloom”, and said, Nooooo, no more shitty grifts. Well, at least that is what I said. Then I watched the trailer and decided it could actually have merit. And then I watched the movie, and discovered the jewel of the year.

The film follows the lives of brothers Stephan and Bloom, from children discovering the joy of a con to years later when, at the top of their game, Bloom decides he is done. He wants to hang up his hat, move on, and do anything but grift. Stephen gives him a couple of months to cool his heels before hunting Bloom down and convincing him to perform one last job.

The target: Penelope Stamp (Rachel Weisz), the richest person on the eastern seaboard. The con: showing a beautiful and eccentric heiress the time of her life on a romantic smuggling adventure that inevitably goes south. The crew: Stephen (Mark Ruffalo) – the brains, Bang Bang (Rinko Kikuchi) -the muscle, The Belgian, the hook, and Bloom (Adrien Brody) – the tragic hero. I don’t want to give more of the story away other than to tell you that it involves travel by foot, bicycle, police cruiser, steam ship, and no less than three canary-yellow Ferraris are totaled.

Ok, you get it, the plot is solid. Granted, heist movies aren’t original anymore, but the film isn’t as much about the steps of the con as the people involved. This wasn’t a surprise once I realized that the director, Rian Johnson, also made “Brick“, a brooding film noir mystery set in a modern day high school.

Johnson’s film-making style leaves nothing to chance, creating a genuinely happy tone within a dark corrupted context by flawlessly integrating casting, filming editing, costuming, score, and writing. Even the setting is key in his films; the film is predominantly set in Prague, a very romantic city filled with black statues, dark alleys, and even darker desires.

The entire film is brilliantly casted. Mark Ruffalo as Stephan weaves intricate cons as detailed as a novel; each story portrays his brother Bloom as the hero in an effort to give Bloom at least a glimpse of the happiness he wants him to have. Adrien Brody allows himself to truly enjoy the character of Bloom, effortlessly becoming the tragic hero who understands that all of the happy fictions he creates can never become his own reality.

Rachel Weiss is completely disarming as the idiosyncratic billionaire, Penelope Stamp. At first glance Penelope is the definition of socially awkward; however, upon further inspection, she reveals a quiet cunning elegantly juxtaposed with childlike innocence. She experiences the world without the smoke and mirrors because she wasn’t trained to notice them.

Even the supporting actors are perfect; Rinko Kikuchi as Bang Bang has beautiful comic timing without having to speak more than 3 lines in the entire film and Maximilian Schell flawlessly embodies the dark discarded mentor out for revenge. Even Max Records who plays young Stephen brought significant emotional depth to the character (keep your eye out for him in “Where the Wild Things Are”).

The costuming is key to this film. I found it very refreshing that you could watch this movie and not know if it was set in the early 1900’s or today, and a good part of that is due to the costuming choices. My favorite aspect of this aspect though was the hats. During all of the film, most of the characters are wearing an assortment of hats. The bowler hat, however, is featured most prominently, reminiscent of Magritte’s Son of Man which depicts an anonymous man in a suit with an apple in front of his face.

The film’s ending is poignant and beautiful, truly Stephen’s definition of the perfect con, one in which every person involved gets exactly what they wanted. Personally, I got everything I wanted from a film: comedy, adventure, great acting, and, most of all, intelligence. I therefore happily give “The Brothers Bloom” a 5 out of 5 and list it as my favorite film of the year.