The followup from the director of Brick, Rian Johnson, The Brothers Bloom follows two con artist brothers, Stephen the older (Mark Ruffalo) and Bloom the younger (Adrien Brody). Fed up with the life, Bloom wants nothing more to do with Stephen, but he is drawn back in for one more con of eccentric heiress Penelope (Rachel Weisz). With the aid of silent sidekick Bang Bang (Rinko Kikuchi of Babel, who also voices in The Sky Crawlers that I'll see later in the fest), the brothers draw the curious Penelope into a tale that has the four travelling back and forth across the globe. Penelope entrances Bloom with her excitement over the sense of adventure, but Bloom soon wonders if he can ever have a real life, or if he's just conning himself.
It's not easy to come up with something original in this genre, but director and writer Rian Johnson spins a lively, clever story with layer upon layer and con upon con, keeping both the audience and the characters guessing as to what is real and what is artifice. Mark Ruffalo and Adrien Brody are well-matched as the brothers Bloom, and are as charming as con men are. Rachel Weisz plays Penelope with an exuberent innocence that easily captures Bloom's heart. And Rinko Kikuchi is hilarious as Bang Bang, her expression-filled face a worthy substitute for her complete lack of dialogue.
Johnson makes an interesting stylistic choice to have the characters all subtly seem to be anachronisms out of something like the world of The Sting in the 30's, but they still fit seamlessly into the real world of today. Overall, a different but nonetheless great and fun followup to Brick.
Director Rian Johnson, and actors Rachel Weisz, Adrien Brody, and Mark Ruffalo were present for a Q&A after the film:
- Johnson's family was in the audience, and he said he especially made the film for his grandfather, who was there.
- The illustrations in the notebook were done by Rian's cousin Zack Johnson. His other cousin Nathan did the original music for the film. Nathan also did a musical number before the film (It's Only a Paper Moon). Rian later danced with Weisz to it, and then Brody and Ruffalo danced with each other as well to the audience's laughter.
- The costume design was done by Beatrix Aruna Pasztor (The Fisher King, Good Will Hunting, Vanity Fair).
- They didn't improvise at all during the movie, it was all Johnson's script.
- Also saw actor Ethan Hawke in the audience taking in the screening.
Q&A with spoilers:
- They convince Lamborghini to give them two cars, which they brought out to Romania where they were shooting. They didn't destroy any cars, but Lamborghini did send along extra hoods and fenders, each of which was in a velvet-lined case and which Johnson joked cost more than any car he has ever owned.
- No one would reveal what Penelope says to the Prague chief of police.
- Brody didn't really ride the Schwinn down the hill because of insurance. He only tried it for a bit. Ruffalo actually rode down on a dare.
- The original idea was could they do a con-man love story, and could they do a movie where the audience is expecting to be fooled in the last act, but do something that is character based, where it is an emotional payoff.
From left to right: Nathan Johnson, Rian Johnson, Rachel Weisz, Adrien Brody, and Mark Ruffalo:
From left to right: Rian Johnson, Rachel Weisz, Adrien Brody, and Mark Ruffalo: