19 January 2010

The Brothers Bloom

Written & Directed by: Rian Johnson
Full credits at IMDb

Movies themselves are the long con in The Brothers Bloom, a romantic metafilm about the mendacity of storytelling that unfolds with the sophistication and guessing-game complexity of a Tony Gilroy contraption—albeit without the movie-star-glamour fetish. That’s not to say the film isn’t without Big Names: Adrian Brody, putting his naturally mopey anguish to good use, stars as little bro to Mark Ruffalo; together, they constitute the eponymous, world-famous swindlers, out on one last con: to bamboozle a million smackers from eccentric heiress/hermit Rachel Weisz (never better). Ruffalo, a sort of stand-in for writer-director Johnson, writes the narratives for their months-long rackets, and Brody—a stand-in for…himself? The actor, longing to break free of prescribed boundaries—makes them click. Weisz is us, the audience, longing to be strung along on an adventure, even if it’s all a ruse.

Johnson’s previous feature, the estimable Brick, had an easy hook: John Huston meets John Hughes. But this film refuses to be so easily pinned down. Style (and substance) and flair burst out of every frame and speaker; Johnson—hell, everybody—is firing on all cylinders here, with a twisty story played out by top-notch actors engaging in expressionistic gestures against ornate backdrops. The director evokes a host of others: Wes Anderson, in the dandy preciousness and reverence for anachronism (trans-Atlantic steamers!?!); Quentin Tarantino, in the dialogue’s eloquence; Charlie Kaufman, in the storytelling self-awareness; and any of the Old Masters, in the expert visual style (not least in the elegant slow motions or graceful tracking shots). But Johnson is no derivation or sum of his influences. He’s an American eclectic, on the cusp of (God willing!) a long and exciting career. Grade: A

Watch the trailer:

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