Saturday, June 20, 2009

FILM: The Brothers Bloom

To Catch A Thief as written by Lemony Snicket...
On the spur of the moment, I decided to check out The Brothers Bloom, a dark quirky con man / relationship comedy. Picture something like Paper Moon or The Sting, as if they were written by Lemony Snicket. The whole film has that slightly dark and vaguely surreal quality of Lemony Snicket (or the TV show Pushing Daisies), with characters, costumes, and some elements that seem very a-hundred-years-ago mixed in with modern cars and other contemporary elements, which makes it hard to put your finger on exactly when the film is set, at the same time as it makes it easier to accept the fantastic bits. Certainly there are no characters in real life like the ones in this film, but the film succeeds in making you believe, at least for a couple of hours, that there could have been. There's also an overlay of fairy-tale quality that starts with the title, is launched by having a narrator, and by the Dickensian childhood of the brothers, and is maintained by a series of timeless settings including a Newportesque mansion, steamer ships and trains, and the city of Prague. The lead actors are all superb, starting with Rachel Weisz as Penelope, a fantastically multi-talented and fantastically rich but slightly autistic hyper-eccentric heiress. Not having ever encountered such a person in real life, it's hard to make claims about authenticity, but if such a person ever existed, Weisz's Penelope was absolutely her. Adrian Brody is charming as the broody younger Bloom who's been conning so long that he longs for his own authentic life but doesn't know if he's capable of one. And Mark Ruffalo is perfectly elusive as Stephen, the mastermind of the brothers' cons, who may or may not love his brother beyond pulling off the next con job. Rinko Kikuchi adds spice and humor as the enigmatic Bang Bang, and Maximillian Schell and Robbie Coltrane add mysterious shady characters to the mix. Penelope is the ultimate prey of the brothers, but she adds an element of unpredictability, and as Bloom may be developing real feelings for her, you just really don't know who's playing whom and how. The scenery and overall visual texture are marvelous, and I found the quirky story engaging to the surprising end.

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