the brothers bloom

While Up is a visually stunning film, and pretty much technically flawless, The Brothers Bloom is my favorite film of the year so far. I say this in the interest of not burying the lede.

Bloom adds a healthy dose of Wes Anderson quirk to the decades-old caper genre. So the fact that I loved Rian Johnson’s latest film isn’t entirely unexpected. I am, however, shocked by how Bloom has managed to sail underneath the critical and commercial radar.

For while Bloom borrows a bit of Wes Anderson’s flair, it’s a far more accessible (and far better) picture than either Anderson’s The Life Aquatic or The Darjeeling Limited. There’s a fair bit of slapstick, and a plot that doesn’t tip its hand until the very end. Maybe I’m deluded, but I see The Brothers Bloom as a sure-fire adventure comedy hit, and had it been marketed differently, it could have been.

As it stands, it was a bit of a shock that Bloom showed up at my local cineplex at all, and it did so about three weeks later than other markets, part of a scattershot release schedule that’s typical for films that a studio doesn’t quite know what to do with.

As for the film itself, the shining star is unquestionably Rachel Weisz as a hermitic heiress who plays the mark for the titular confidence tricksters (Adrien Brody and Mark Ruffalo). When Ruffalo convinces his timid brother to target Weisz for one last score, the plan goes along swimmingly until Brody commits the cardinal sin of falling for the mark.

Weisz’s character Penelope is earnest for adventure and Brody unwittingly lures her out of her shell. Weisz nails the role, casting Penelope as an unflinchingly wide-eyed optimist willing to roll with any obstacles. There is an unexpected amount of versatility here from Weisz, and I can’t think of a role of hers that I’ve enjoyed even a tenth as much.

Ruffalo and Brody bring some nice chemistry as brothers, Ruffalo as the mastermind (and his tricks as scripted by Johnson are truly works of art), and Brody as the loyal but self-loathing partner, always seeking escape, but unwilling to leave his brother alone.

Johnson takes full advantage of his actors’ talents, and revels in photographing the settings his globetrotting characters bring him to, hiding all kinds of detail (and, often, subtle jokes) deep within the shot. He also makes great use of Robbie Coltrane and Oscar nominee Rinko Kikucki (Babel) in limited roles.

Bloom would be the perfect hit summer comedy for a country that didn’t love Sandra Bullock so fucking much.

Film: The Brothers Bloom
Director: Rian Johnson
Stars: Rachel Weisz, Adrien Brody, Mark Ruffalo, Rinko Kikuchi, Maximillian Schell, Robbie Coltrane

Viewing situation: Weekend evening, small crowd; standard projection
My grade (out of 10): 10
Rotten Tomatoes average: 63%

Next up: Angels and Demons

Summer Movie Suicide Mission ’09: Seeing them all, all summer long. Follow Summer Movie Suicide Mission on Twitter: @SMSM09.