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The Brothers Bloom (2008)


Christian
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I'm trying to write something about The Brothers Bloom, which I saw Friday night. It's received reviews that range from above average to very strong among Christian sites that have reviewed it. Even Moviegude had nice things to say about it!

I wasn't so thrilled with the movie as it played, but I'm finding myself warming to it in the past couple of days. But what I liked about it isn't something that I've seen highlighted in the reviews of the film I've read. What really made this movie for me, to the extent that I'm positive toward it, is the actresses. Rachel Weisz appears, from IMDB (can I trust the order the actors are listed there? probably not), to get top billing in this film, although Adrien Brody is the main character. But Weisz is pretty great in the film. A scene of her displaying certain odd talents comes out of nowhere and is so goofy and unexpected that it raises the level of all that precedes it. And that preceding material isn't half bad!

Best of all is Rinko Kikuchi. I loved her in Babel, but I didn't foresee from that film that she'd ever give a performance like this. It's nearly silent, but the expressiveness of the performance is on par, IMHO, with the great "silent clowns" of cinema. She's all gesture and attitude, and her performance is solid gold.

I want to watch the film again just to watch her. If I were an Oscar voter, I'd call the Supporting Actress race right now. Kikuchi won't even be nominated when the time comes, of course, but she has my vote, come what may.

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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I'm really looking forward to this. Everything I've seen to date -- teasers, trailers, etc. -- looks fantastic.

Edited by opus

"I feel a nostalgia for an age yet to come..."
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A recent blog post at IMAGE's "Good Letters" blog on this film:

http://imagejournal.org/page/blog/bloom

My sister has been telling me we should see this, and now I'm equally intrigued. Also, Foster's post calls up some themes that parallel the novel I'm reading, The Thirteenth Tale, by Diane Setterfield.

There is this difference between the growth of some human beings and that of others: in the one case it is a continuous dying, in the other a continuous resurrection. (George MacDonald, The Princess and Curdie)

Isn't narrative structure enough of an ideology for art? (Greg Wright)

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Wow. Okay, I'm interested. Why has almost every review I've seen described it as a failed attempt to beat Wes Anderson at his own game? I really liked Brick, so I'm glad to see the enthusiasm here.

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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I've been doing some more reading about the film, looking at more reivews, and I've concluded that my comment about the oversight of Weisz's performance was unfounded. Plenty of critics have noted the performance, some quite favorably, although I still get the sense from most reviews that the male actors are the focus of the story. They are -- just look at the film's title! - but as far as my personal interest goes, this one's all about the actresses.

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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  • 3 weeks later...

This film finally opened here in Nashville this week and I went to see it with my wife. It was superb. I honestly think that anyone who thinks this is "trying to beat Wes Anderson at his own game" is a lazy film critic. It's much more obvious that dir. Rian Johnson is building his own style that is similar to Anderson's but not at all a copy. And where Anderson begins to have more style than substance in many people's eyes is where Johnson ignores style for substance. There was a great affection in his tone for all the characters.

If you liked Brick, Johnson's update and nod to classic noir films, you'll most likely enjoy The Brothers Bloom, a con man movie that is definitely able to stand on its own against all the great con men movies. It is both a nod to the past and an update to the genre which results in something that feels familiar but altogether novel.

I'm sad more people on this board haven't seen this film honestly because it seems to fit into the tastes of this board - worth watching and enough meat in the movie to afford good discussion.

I highly recommend it.

winstonavich.wordpress.com

the blog of boring old winston hearn.

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I loved this film. I agree with Christian that Kikuchi and Weisz were a delight to watch. As far as comparisons to Wes Anderson, I only thought that only the title cards showed a distinct Anderson influence. The rest of the film was a fully original vision. After this and Brick, Rian Johnson has crafted two of my favorite films of the last several years, and I'm looking forward to what he does next.

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A recent blog post at IMAGE's "Good Letters" blog on this film:

http://imagejournal.org/page/blog/bloom

My sister has been telling me we should see this, and now I'm equally intrigued. Also, Foster's post calls up some themes that parallel the novel I'm reading, The Thirteenth Tale, by Diane Setterfield.

The Brothers Bloom opened this week in our area and I joined my sister's family (incl. my 18-yr-old niece) at a show last night. We all thought it was unusually good. Definitely worth waiting for, and worth the price of admission. As con-men movies go, thematically this one reminds me of Matchstick Men, but relies less on ticks and has more heart. Wes Anderson? This movie didn't give me the same sense Anderson's movies do of waving frantically & saying "Look how quirky & weird I am while still good-hearted! You love me! You know you do!"

Probably one of my top 10 of this year.

There is this difference between the growth of some human beings and that of others: in the one case it is a continuous dying, in the other a continuous resurrection. (George MacDonald, The Princess and Curdie)

Isn't narrative structure enough of an ideology for art? (Greg Wright)

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I went in knowing *zero* about the film except for a few scattered review-blips I'd glanced over at Rotten Tomatoes (that all said the Wes Anderson thing). I loved Brick, and when I found out (after seeing the movie) that it was the same director, I geeked out. It also helped me put the movie in a little more context.

Rian Johnson has come a long way. Brick is a very, very small movie. Very intimate, very close to home, which is the charm of the movie (being a Noir and all).

Brother's Bloom is a heist movie, a con movie, a twist and turn movie. The currency of these movies are exotic locations, breath-taking twists, and the fast-paced charm we associate with con artists (The "Ocean's" movies, etc.) These movies can achieve so much, and so the audience brings a lot of expectations to the theater with them. This is why I say Johnson has come a long way. He is reaching very high, here.

Does he succeed? In many areas, yes. I don't think he succeeds as much as he did in Brick, but, as I've theorized here, Brick wasn't trying to do half of what Johnson, by the very nature of the movie he has chosen was trying to do with Bloom.

The movie buckles under it's own weight for a little bit, especially in the second act. Their are some twist that are sort of hinted act that aren't really dealt with. Thus, we're left haven't spent energy trying to figure out a particular point, and then it sort of just fizzles. (Once again, the danger of this kind of movie: We look for twists *everywhere,* so things like this have to be dealt with pretty clearly.) I do, however, feel that this was the exception rather than the rule. Overall the plot handled these things really well, and the ending was, I think, very strong.

It also seemed to oversell, at some points, Weisz's character as "quirky." (I'm thinking of the train/storm scene, here, especially.) But, once again, I do feel that this was only a slight misstep. I loved Weisz's character; her intro was priceless, and the overview of her hobbies was absolutely wonderful. I was very much in love with her; I just felt they tried a little too hard at times in that one aspect.

Completely agree with Christain: Kikuchi a marvel! She executes her character very well. And I didn't know she was the girl from Babel; what range is expressed in these roles!

One more, quick thought: Others have already pointed it out, here, but I just wanted to also applaud the film for it's relational core. This does help set it apart from other films in it's genre and ends up being perhaps the film's strongest element.

Edited by Foolish Knight

"Make visible what, without you, might perhaps never have been seen."
Robert Bresson

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Interview with Rian Johnson, from MakingOf.com Edited by BethR

There is this difference between the growth of some human beings and that of others: in the one case it is a continuous dying, in the other a continuous resurrection. (George MacDonald, The Princess and Curdie)

Isn't narrative structure enough of an ideology for art? (Greg Wright)

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  • 1 month later...
Wow. Okay, I'm interested. Why has almost every review I've seen described it as a failed attempt to beat Wes Anderson at his own game?

I can't speak for anyone else, of course, but I think Brothers Bloom has ruined Wes Anderson for me. Yes, there are a few aesthetic similarities, but Bloom has SO MUCH more heart and energy than anything Anderson has ever done. Rian Johnson has finally helped me to "get" the criticisms that Anderson's films are emotionally stunted or insular; compared to this movie, they really are.

I'm also floored by how different from Brick this movie is. I feared Johnson had painted himself into something of a corner, but this movie reveals him to be a filmmaker of amazing versatility and vision.

Partner in Cahoots

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  • 5 months later...

I’m surprised that this one didn’t get more viewings and/or discussion, as others before me have noted. I just caught this—looked gorgeous on its Blu-Ray transfer, and I got a kick out of seeing “Montenegro”, which was likely Italy or Southern California or somewhere other than the actual former Yugoslav republic, but anyway, its always cool for me to see little Balkans locales show up randomly in films. I agree that Weisz and Kikuchi (mostly) deliver the goods on their roles, and I’ve always enjoyed Mark Ruffalo in stuff I’ve seen of his. So, (here’s the switcheroo after all that misdirection) why did I sum up this movie in one word to my wife afterwards? “Stupid” I think is what I called it. Honestly, it wasn’t stupid. Needlessly convoluted, overly muddled maybe, but “stupid” was ungenerous. I was tired though, and stupid, was all I could manage.

Allow me to spoil, okay?

Okay, so the Bloom brothers, millionaires off of a career of successful cons due to the elder Bloom’s (Ruffalo) talent for storytelling, have issues. Other than the lifestyle of thievery and debauchery they’ve chosen for themselves which will lead to their eventual eternal punishment (HT: Movieguide), they’ve got it pretty easy. But the younger Bloom is feeling unfulfilled. He doesn’t like being managed by his brother. He wants out. He wants a real life. He wants to drink himself into a stupor in Ulqin. Of course, his brother can’t let him be. He needs to create a con so good that Bloom can break out of his inferiority complex (or whatever) and give him everything he wants. (Which you don’t always get, but sometimes you get what you need.) So his solution is to get himself killed. But act like its part of the con. But it isn’t. He’s really gutshot. But at least he’s got enough energy to make it look like a con. And Bloom wants to believe it’s a con, so he can run off into the sunset with the heiress who’s escaped from her crummy life but is so socially maladjusted that she’d rather be conned and have company than be secure but lonely. But they love each other!

How sweet, I couldn’t believe the Elder Bloom hadn’t written it into his con—what’s that I hear? Oh, yeah, he did. Anyway, so he’s gutshot and instead of exiting stage left for the nearest l’hopital he grabs a chair, sits down on the stage and bleeds to death. Are you serious? I mean, really? That’s how he fixes it? He cuts his brother loose by letting him think he’s being conned but instead really dies. Sorry, not buying it.

Structurally, the elder Bloom’s death introduces a level of gravity that isn’t earned by its preceding two hours. Juggling stiltwalking hobbyists? Sure, whatever. Shotgun wielding Belgians? Okay. We’re in the realm of absurdist fantasy—don’t suddenly go serious and move into tragedy (and a non-sensical tragedy at that). As much as the Anderson comparisons have been made, I’m fully in the camp that Johnson's missing something essential in Anderson’s work (with the exception of Darjeeling Limited, I guess—my criticism of that film was the mid-film tragedy was unearned also, it was incongruous to the rest of the tone both before and afterwards). Ned’s death in the Life Aquatic fits, and its tragi-comedy at its best, and it allows us the full humanist experience of an imperfect life cut down at a random moment. Brothers Bloom doesn’t do this—it tacks on a death to impart gravity where its not needed and not at all revealing of the characters or our own experience. I can’t even remember Ruffalo’s character’s name.

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Other than the lifestyle of thievery and debauchery they’ve chosen for themselves which will lead to their eventual eternal punishment (HT: Movieguide)

Nice! :)

I can’t even remember Ruffalo’s character’s name.

It's Bloom, isn't it? ;)

Edited by Christian

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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Thank you, Buckeye. You said much of what I've wanted to say, but you said it better. I just haven't been able to must enough passion to write my underwhelmedness.

This movie was a a huge slice of cake that was mostly frosting. Kinda fun while it lasted, and then a bellyache at the end.

Watching Rachel Weisz was like watching a beautiful woman make a valiant effort to inflate and make balloon animals out of a bundle of colorful balloons that have been poked full of holes. Valiant effort, and she's great to look at, but nothing happens, and there's this perpetual sound: PHPLTTPHPLTTTTPHLPTPHLTLTLTLTLTLPSSSSSSSSSSS!

And the familiar stylistic flourishes were really distracting. Get your own style, dude. In fact, you had it with Brick, so do go all "What I really want to do is direct... like Wes Anderson."

Edited by Overstreet

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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This movie was a a huge slice of cake that was mostly frosting. Kinda fun while it lasted, and then a bellyache at the end.

That nicely sums up how I felt about the movie. I enjoyed it enough, but I wanted to like it a lot more than I actually did.

"I feel a nostalgia for an age yet to come..."
Opus, Twitter, Facebook

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And the familiar stylistic flourishes were really distracting. Get your own style, dude. In fact, you had it with Brick, so do go all "What I really want to do is direct... like Wes Anderson."

Never saw Brick. I take it that it was a lot more coherent that Bloom? I like that balloon analogy, too--pretty much captures Weisz's performance (hopefully she didn't get red in the face).

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  • 4 weeks later...

This movie was a a huge slice of cake that was mostly frosting. Kinda fun while it lasted, and then a bellyache at the end.

That nicely sums up how I felt about the movie. I enjoyed it enough, but I wanted to like it a lot more than I actually did.

Honestly the bellyache was at the beginning. All that horrid poetry to start things off? Five Netflix stars MINUS TWO in the first eight minutes.

The rest wasn't altogether bad but it did feel like a major sophomore slump compared to Brick, which I watched last week. At times it felt like it was going somewhere, but then it never did.

Watching Rachel Weisz was like watching a beautiful woman make a valiant effort to inflate and make balloon animals out of a bundle of colorful balloons that have been poked full of holes. Valiant effort, and she's great to look at, but nothing happens, and there's this perpetual sound: PHPLTTPHPLTTTTPHLPTPHLTLTLTLTLTLPSSSSSSSSSSS!

Actually I thought Weisz made a great character in Penelope, even in the way she walked. I was impessed with Weisz. The whole beauty thing was much more downplayed than in The Constant Gardener or The Fountain, and I'm getting the sense she's got a real range to her acting capabilities.

It certainly wasn't as good as Brick, but it's good Johnson didn't try to repeat himself as well. Here's to hoping that his next film is a success.

Not enough here to rip on or hate, it'll just fizzle out of my memory banks and fade. I'll read this in a few years and know I saw it, but I'll barely remember any of the scenes.

PS Note - this was a PG-13 with TWO F-words in it. Usually there's only one allowed, right? I'm wondering if they want to get the second one in whether they have to give up a nipple or something.

Edited by Persona

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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Actually I thought Weisz made a great character in Penelope, even in the way she walked. I was impessed with Weisz. The whole beauty thing was much more downplayed than in The Constant Gardener or The Fountain, and I'm getting the sense she's got a real range to her acting capabilities.

That's what I mean, Stef. She was great. She gave it her all, and I think she's an fantastic actress. It was the movie all around her that didn't work.

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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