Movie Review: “The Brothers Bloom”

As I mentioned recently, I’m suffering from Star Wars fatigue.  But I have to admit, having seen Star Wars VIII director and writer Rian Johnson’s film The Brothers Bloom, I’m curious to see what he’ll do with the space saga.

The Brothers Bloom (Image via Wikipedia, used under Fair Use)

Brothers Bloom is a weird movie.  It’s probably the second-weirdest movie I’ve seen–only The Ruling Class, starring Peter O’Toole, was weirder.  And it’s very close. Oddly, both of them are about an eccentric rich person and their bizarre exploits. The movies are otherwise fairly different, but I thought it was a curious similarity.

The eponymous brothers are con men from birth.  But the younger brother, played by Adrien Brody (the character’s name seemingly is “Bloom Bloom”, since everyone, including his brother Stephen, always refers to him as “Bloom”) wants out of the con business.  Naturally, Stephen (Mark Ruffalo) convinces him to do one last con–they will pose as antique smugglers to swindle the eccentric, reclusive heiress, Penelope Stamp. (Rachel Weisz).

Bloom of course quickly falls in love with Penelope, and begins to feel increasingly guilty about the scheme.  Penelope, meanwhile, loves the concept of being a smuggler that the brothers have fed her.  She pursues it with greater enthusiasm than the brothers themselves.

The plot is winding and complicated; and there’s no way I could do it justice here.  It provides all the twists and turns one would want in a con man movie.  There are numerous funny scenes and comical misadventures–probably the highlight being a mistake made by Bang Bang (Rinko Kikuchi)–the Brothers’ silent Japanese collaborator and explosives expert.  But it might be the scene where Penelope tries to evade Czech soldiers by sneaking through a ventilation duct, and for once, the ventilation ducts are not the infallible escape route that movies usually make them out to be.

Despite the enjoyable, humorous tone of the film, the story takes some very dark turns towards the end, and the finale is extremely bittersweet.  I won’t spoil it here–it’s the kind of movie where part of the fun is trying to guess what will happen.

One interesting thing about the film is that it never seems clear in what time period it is set.  The fashions seems to be 1920s or ’60s, but the cars look modern or 1980s.  People travel by steam boat or train, but there are also references to cell phones and anime. I think it must have been deliberate, and it creates a very weird effect–almost like this is some alternate retro-reality. Like a steampunk world, only cooler.

The last thing I want to note is a comment on the rating system.  I watched this movie shortly after watching the superhero film Thor. Both movies are PG-13.  This strikes me as hilarious.  Thor has cartoonish violence (mainly against monsters, as well as a few “henchman” type characters.) and I think a couple people might say “what the hell”. That’s it on the objectionable content.

Brothers Bloom has tons of swearing–up to and including the big “F”.  It has violence–the brothers routinely fake being shot to death as part of their cons, and sometimes things aren’t always so fake.  It has several sex scenes, plus some brief nudity.

I don’t object to any of the stuff in Brothers Bloom, don’t get me wrong.  I’m not a prude, and all of it makes sense in the movie.  I’m not even saying it should have gotten an “R”. I’m just saying that any movie rating system that gives the same rating to Thor and Brothers Bloom has something seriously wrong with it.

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