Jul 16, 2010

The Brothers Bloom

Hubby rented The Brothers Bloom because he knows I like Adrien Brody. My initial reaction was to refuse to watch it. I had never heard of it, and the last time my husband was seized with "unknown movie" inspiration at the video store, I suffered through not one but two (OK, one and a half) movies about vacuum cleaner salesmen. Needless to say, we've tried this open-minded-about-unknown-movies thing before, with such disastrous results as actually paying US dollars to see Equilibrium in the theater; again because one of us (this time hubby) really liked Christian Bale.

I think his intent this time was to rib me, "Ha. You like Adrien Brody, and look at this piece of poo (I like to keep it G-rated) to which he willingly connected his name," but we were both pleasantly surprised to find so much entertainment in a movie that was not a box office smash (not that I am against Indie films, but sometimes you do get burned).

There were things I didn't think were necessary or that were a little too outlandish, but for the most part, the story was interesting enough to keep me involved, and Adrien Brody did not disappoint. Also, it was an added bonus when Rachel Weisz (whom I adore from my The Mummy phase) showed up as the love interest.

I thought the opening sequence which introduced the brothers as children was very funny and well-executed. The cinematography was fine, but could maybe have done a bit more with the exotic locales. The end was drawn-out, and felt forced. I'm not big on narration, so the narrated portions of the story irritated me. I like the visual to tell the story when at all possible. It's something that sticks with me from film school, so it is probably not my own, but there it is anyway.

I laughed several times. Rachel Weisz is Penelope, an epileptic "eccentric shut-in rich bitch" who collects hobbies. There is a hilarious montage in which she demonstrates her hobbies for Bloom (Adrien Brody); as well as some funny recurring jokes that occur in the background if you watch for them. She started out pretty eccentric, but that sort of petered out towards the middle. I'm not sure if the writers intended for her to become more normal the more she was around others or if they just didn't have any more ways to make it funny. The epilepsy never came back, so it was weird to have it set up as if it was a thing. All in all though, her character worked because the emotion she and Bloom felt for one another was evident and appealing.

Where I didn't feel the emotion was between the two brothers. Mark Ruffalo is not my favorite actor, mostly because he isn't very good. There were even times when I didn't buy Adrien Brody's performance opposite Ruffalo. I am trying not to make this a treatise on acting technique, so I will leave it there.

The title sort of lacked luster. I was never sure why Adrien Brody was called Bloom. Was Bloom their last name and he chose to go by it? It doesn't make any sense if that wasn't their last name, but that means we never know Bloom's real name. Is that supposed to be symbolic of his character being shrouded in lies? I get that, but it still bugs me as the title. It feels a little like an unnecessary homage to (rip-off of?) The Brothers McMullen.

I think I know why this film didn't smash up the box office. It was mostly about self-loathing but without the proper feel-good finish that most movie-goers crave. The end kind of sputtered to a close, and I never had the sense that Bloom had come to grips with himself. He was "released" in a sense, from his brother's influence, but not necessarily from the power of his own self-hatred. I really wanted the end of the movie to be like this: Penelope (Weisz) shows up in Montenegro with her "Penelope the con artiste" doodles; convinces Bloom (Brody) to embrace his talents and get over the fact that he has to lie all the time; he finally stands up to his older brother, and he and Penelope start up a rival gang of con artists. If he could just own his work and his character, he could be free from regret and live the life he wants. It should be clearer to him that Penelope's acceptance of him, just the way he is, is the only approval he needs.

Personal note: I am so sick of the noble guy in these stories "protecting" the woman they love from the darkness that is their unknown soul. Give me a break. Do you really think we can't handle your evil? We've been in it up to our ears since time began. I always have to wonder how much the guy really loves the girl if he underestimates her abilities so vastly. Bloom goes so far as to try to trick Penelope into leaving him, instead of just telling her that he wants to keep her away from the rottenness inherently attached to his way of life. Here's a novel concept, why not let her choose? Anyway, Penelope is better at card tricks than Steven (Ruffalo), so right there Bloom ought not to dismiss this girl's potential as a con artist. (That was a jab at the overuse of the card-tricks-being-a-micro-version-of-the-con theme).

I wrote the following note to myself during the viewing: "pretty hardcore self-loathing; please let this film be about accepting who you are and embracing it." Alas, it was not about that. It was about blaming someone else for your problems (according to Bloom, his brother keeps writing him into these stories) and only sort of getting over it, and only then when that person is gone. Still, there were enough zany hijinks to keep me going, even though the denouement was protracted and a bit of a let down.

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