Bellies full of Bardenay, we wound our way through last night’s boisterous festivities crowding the Basque Block and made an impromptu decision to catch a film at The Flicks. Rian Johnson’s colorful new con-medy, The Brothers Bloom, happened to be starting, so we grabbed the last seats in the house—in the very front row. In the first few moments, the film’s richly saturated cinematography established the movie’s fantastical nature—something a kin to Big Fish topped with Matilda wrapped in Everything is Illuminated.
The story chronicles the misadventures of the orphaned Bloom Brothers as they grow from gangly kids to pinstripe playboys and learn the artful trade of penning and performing the perfect con. But the scrappy, yet tenderhearted, con-artist who exploits emotionally vulnerable millionaires before truly learning how to love—Heartbreakers, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Priceless—is by no means a fresh plot line. And even with its cutesy, Wes Anderson-esque flourishes—montages set to Bob Dylan songs, characters with quirky hobbies and recurrent, beats-you-over-the-head symbolism—The Brothers Bloom adds nothing new to this established rom-con genre.
Even the movie’s most interesting character, the lonesome heiress Penelope, played eccentrically by Rachel Weisz, doesn’t reach her full potential. Though she’s insanely smart and endowed with a variety of talents—from playing harp and skateboarding, to speaking fluent French, Russian and Czech—her extensive and varied knowledge is no match for the doe-eyed, sulking Bloom (Adrien Brody) who woos her completely and unquestioningly. As the movie’s myriad plot twists—all concocted by Bloom mastermind Stephen (Mark Ruffalo)—string Penelope along from Greece to Prague to Mexico, the audience longs for Penelope to be in on the con. Possibly even to con the con men. But no such luck.
The Brothers Bloom is a love story at its core. One that, while entertaining and visually spectacular, never fully blossoms.