Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Brothers Bloom

Rian Johnson | 2008 | 109 min | US

This is my biggest disappointment of the film festival thus far. Not the worst I've seen, though not far off. Dammit, The Brothers Bloom should have been great. I am a big fan of all the leads (Adrian Brody, Rachel Weisz, and the underused Mark Ruffalo) and this was Rian Johnson's follow up to the highly inventive and entertaining neo-noir Brick. What wasn't there to love? Well, everything. This time around Johnson abandons the "inventive" angle in favour of becoming another Wes Anderson Lite. The same costumes, the same "clever" dialogue, the same obscure retro rock soundtrack, and fuck if he doesn't even include a mute, ethnic comic foil. All right out of the Anderson playbook and not half as pleasant in action here.

I understand that criticizing Johnson for lousy dialogue in this film after praising Brick may seem a bit odd to some folks, but I loved the world of Brick. I swallowed whole the idea that this world could exist, and while the dialogue was unusual, I never felt the characters were putting on airs. It seemed perfectly reasonable that everyone spoke that way in their cartoon noir world. But I digress.

Johnson's screenplay still stays in the world of noir, this time focusing in on a trio of smooth talking grifters, the brothers and their assistant, and their work on the long con game. Older brother Ruffalo is the brains of the operation, while young Brody is tired of feeling strung along and manipulated by his brother's scripts and plots. Brody agrees to play along for one more con: a guaranteed huge payday in the shape of lonely heiress Rachel Weisz. The film starts off looking sharp and playing with classic film conventions with a great sense of joy. Then that stops, and Johnson starts feeding you so many goddamn hints that you spend more than an hour just waiting for him to get to the obvious so you can enjoy some fresh air. Even the three leads seems to find their characters dull. Though each of them is capable of doing great things with not so great material, their sleepy delivery this time around doesn't help matters any.

Even for all its playfulness, Brick was at heart a good mystery. On the other hand, The Brothers Bloom is boring as all hell. I can't blame a young director for wanting to try something new, but its a shame that Johnson's something new was trying his hand at making shitty movies.


Michael said...

I was kinda half wondering if the day would come when Anderson had his knock-offs just like the rush of Tarantino types that came along. The way you describe this one makes me cringe and especially so concerning the soundtrack as Anderson's began to make me cringe too although I've skipped the last two of his. I liked Brick for the same reasons you did. Oh well.

You guys have been doing a terrific job of coverage, by the way! Katrina must be tired.

aaron said...

thanks a lot! glad you've been reading. we are all tired as hell and getting sick, but i think kat has taken the brunt of it.

i guess one had to see the anderson clones coming, but i thought more talented people would be immune. its surprising for a director with as much promise as johnson showed to ape that tired style. even anderson's last film was unbearable. we hardly need weaker copies of that junk.