Sunday, May 17, 2009

Capsule Review: The Brothers Bloom

Movie: The Brothers Bloom
Director/Studio: Rian Johnson / Summit Entertainment
10 Word Review: Buoyant, clever genre mishmash confirms my high regard for director.

Best Thing About It: Rian Johnson's Brick was one of my very favorite movies of 2006, and it's encouraging to see that he's still toying with genre conventions and blending tone and time without rehashing Brick's old-timey dialogue gambit. (Basically, it's a grifter movie cross-pollinated with Wes Anderson's sense of humor; though I'd say he swaps some of Anderson's intellectual detachment for something more emotional. And bonus homage points go to the Ricky Jay-narrated opening sequence which recalled my favorite part of Magnolia.) I think Brick is the better film, but if that was a home run, Bloom is a solid double. And more importantly, it shows that Johnson -- as director and screenwriter -- has a gift for light, breezy comedy. The first hour of Bloom has some of the funniest moments on film this year.

Worst Thing About It: Maybe it's because the first half (or even two-thirds) of the movie is such a delight, but the final third get bogged down in the actual payoff of the various con jobs. It's the only part of the movie that feels pedestrian. The other problem is that years and years of watching movies about con artists has trained the audience to be so distrustful of everything we're seeing that it's hard to build up an investment in the proceedings. To Johnson's credit, he seems to realize this, and the very end of the movie pays it off quite well.

Best Performance: This is a tough one -- all four principle cast members (Adrien Brody, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel Weisz, and Rinko Kikuchi) are really fantastic. Ruffalo gets the least to work with of the four, but I always love him, and his sad-eyes are a perfect fit for the older brother character he plays. Speaking of sad eyes, Brody manages to play the mopey, tortured Bloom without making him a frustrating killjoy. Kikuchi is a marvel with the nearly-mute character of Bang Bang. If she's anywhere in the frame, that's where you're looking -- her reaction shots are sublime. But I'm giving the nod here to the sparkling Rachel Weisz, who is SO incredibly funny and charming and ... bizarre. She's totally not afraid to make Penelope as big of a weirdo as she can, to the film's benefit. That big expressive face of hers tells a billion different stories whenever she's onscreen, and with this movie I can move her up into the top echelon of actresses I will see in anything.

Oscar Prospects: Given the lukewarm response and the realities of the calendar, probably nil. But in a perfect world, it'd be a contender in supporting actress, costumes, art direction, and screenplay.

Grade: B/B+

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