Tuesday, October 28, 2008

London Film Festival Day 14 - THE BROTHERS BLOOM

THE BROTHERS BLOOM is the visually delightful but ultimately self-indulgent follow-up film from writer-director Rian Johnson. His first film, BRICK, reinjected noir with a teen sensibility and seemed genuinely unique. It's tragic, then, to see Rian Johnson decide to make a film that seems to be something of a Wes Anderson rip-off. The elaborately designed sets; the anachronistic costumes; the richly choreographed sight-gags; the international jet-set milieu; the suffocating family relationships; the longing romanticism........oh, it's all there. And if the best of Anderson is present in this movie, so too is the worst. All that carefully placed beauty and absurdity does get a bit, well, boring after a while. And the layers and layers of artifice alienate the audience, and prevent us from feeling the reality of the attempted emotional ending.

So much for the critique, what of the substance? THE BROTHERS BLOOM opens with a tour-de-force prologue which is narrated entirely in rhyme in a sort of Dr Seuss fashion. Two orphan brothers grow up poor in a rich town. The younger romantic boy wants to talk to a sweet girl but can't work up the courage. So his protective older brother comes up with a complex con in which he'll make some cash, his brother will impress the girl and all the kids will think they've stumbled upon a magic cave. Fast forward twenty years and the elder brother (Mark Ruffalo) is still trying to find the perfect con and the younger brother (Adrien Brody) is still looking for real love. They are joined by a female Japanese equivalent of Silent Bob (Rinko Kikuchi) and their mark, cloistered millionairess Penelope (Rachel Weisz). The first hour of the film is brilliant fun. Kikuchi steals every scene she's in and Weisz shows that she has real comic acting ability. Even Ruffalo and Brody are fine. The problem is simply that the fun and games go on too long and deaden the impact of the ending.

THE BROTHERS BLOOM played Toronto and London 2008. It goes on release in the US on December 19th.

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