The Brothers Bloom

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The Brothers Bloom
Review (7/10)
(By Liam Cullin)

The inherent problem with "con" movies is that the discerning viewer is always aware of the fact that they are being conned. The filmmakers work together to try and con their audience. And, as a member of that audience, knowing that you're being conned, you're always trying to stay one step ahead. After all, who wants to fall victim to a con artist? When I was a kid, I enjoyed these types of movies so much more because I was naive enough to take them at face value. Now that I'm older (and perhaps a little wiser) I always find myself sitting in the theater trying to figure out all the angles. And because my mind is in overdrive trying to figure out the "big con" it sometimes takes away from the rest of the moviegoing experience. The trick, of course, is for the filmmakers to pull it off. So that begs the question -- did I fall victim to "The Brothers Bloom"?

"The Brothers Bloom" stars Adrien Brody as Bloom and Mark Ruffalo as his brother Stephen. They grow up moving from one foster family to another, always hanging on the outskirts of the other children playing in the park. One day Stephen comes up with a brilliant plan to con the other children out of $30. Bloom becomes their friend, tells them a story about a magical cave in the woods and how he needs $30 to pay somebody to tell him its location. The story works and the kids fork over their money. The problem for Bloom is that he actually starts to have fun with these kids. And, after the con is over, he feels a little sadness over the fact that he was never really friends with any of these kids. Instead, it was all an act.

Flashing forward several years, Stephen and Bloom have become professional con artists. And it's still the basic setup. Stephen is the man with the plan while Bloom is the guy who gets close to the "mark" and always feels that guilt in the end. Tired of his role, Bloom quits the con game and disappears to a dreary place in the middle of wherever to drink his guilt away. A few months later, Stephen finds Bloom and convinces him to pull one last job. The mark is Penelope Stamp (Rachel Weisz), a beautiful multi-millionaire recluse with a little too much time on her hands. The con involves the group becoming antique smugglers, and Penelope fronting the money to fund the operation. The con also involves Brothers Bloom associate Bang Bang (Rinko Kikuchi), a Belgian named "The Curator" (Robbie Coltrane) and a Russian named "Diamond Dog" (Maximilian Schell). And of course, there's the con within the con within the con leaving the audience always guessing.

I had mixed feelings after leaving "The Brothers Bloom". Maybe it was the fact that I had just been conned. I wanted to say that I enjoyed the movie. It was quirky and well-acted. But I felt that the movie pulled off one con too many which made the story drag a little longer than it should have. I also felt that there was a shift in the tone of the movie toward the end that didn't really work for me. It was a happy and light-hearted movie up to a point until all of a sudden there was this switch to a sad and depressing movie. I suppose it was necessary in the framework of the story, but I'm just not sure that it clicked.

As for the rest of the movie, I enjoyed the set design and the costumes. There are times where the viewer is made aware that the story takes place in the present day, however, our main characters choose to dress in old-fashioned clothes and travel by steamships and trains. The movie reminded me at times of a Wes Anderson movie, specifically "The Darjeeling Limited". And being a fan of Anderson, I could appreciate the look and feel that the movie was trying to create.

"The Brothers Bloom" took me away to another place where con men and heiresses co-exist with silent explosives experts and vengeful Russians. And while the con left me guessing until the very end, and I fell in love with the lonely heiress, the movie didn't end the way I felt it should have. I was conned into believing the movie would end one way, and disappointed when I was blindsided with an ending that didn't necessarily keep with the tone of the rest of the movie. It's not that I didn't like "The Brothers Bloom". It's more that I didn't love it. I'm hoping another viewing some day down the line will change my mind.

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