Beware of Bloom

I just stumbled out of a screening of Rian Johnson‘s The Brothers Bloom (Summit, 12.19), a sumptuous but impossibly silly and logic-free jape in the vein of…frankly, the movie it most reminded me of was the 1967 Casino Royale, which still reigns as one of the emptiest wank-off movies of the mid to late ’60s.
It’s an elaborate, European-set con-artist movie that imparts none of the fun or the thrill of the game. I didn’t know what was going on half the time, and I stopped caring around the 45-minute mark. Rachel Weisz, as a rich mark named Penelope, is lovely and delightful to hang with — I’ll give her (and the movie) that. But Adrien Brody, as the conscience-wracked half of the Brothers Bloom (sick of being a con-man, wants a real life, etc.), is glum and doleful and enervated, and infuriating for that.
Brody’s character’s last name is Bloom, as is his brother Stephen, who’s played by Mark Ruffalo…and yet Brody is repeatedly addressed as “Bloom” and Ruffalo is called “Stephen.” I fell in hate with the movie over this point alone.
I hated the relentlessly sullen poseur crap delivered by Rinko Kikuchi, who plays an appendage named “Bang Bang.” I wanted to see her knifed or shot or pushed into the ocean. All I could think when I watched Robbie Coltrane, who plays “the curator,” was “my God, the man has to lose some weight!” He’s really gone past the tipping point in terms of excess tonnage.
I lasted a little less than an hour, and I was reeling from the preciousness, the overdone contintental cutesiness, the feeling of being simultaneously mauled, tickled, fucked with and drugged by the impossibly faux-Wes Anderson style of the damn thing.
Rian obviously wants to be Wes, but this movie makes The Life Aquatic look like Yasujiro Ozu‘s Floating Weeds.
Some will say that The Brothers Bloom is lush and stylistically mesmerizing and beautiful to bathe in, in the empty sense of that term. But this is the kind of movie that appeals to 30-something Entertainment Weekly or New York magazine feature writers who have no taste to speak of.
It’s ravishingly composed and oh-so-poised with a sense of old-world European train-car romance (as it once existed 50 or 60 years ago) , and yet so stuck on its cleverness that I wanted to reach out and strangle the movie — pull it right off the screen, leap on top of it like a 350 pound wrestler and choke the life out of the damn thing . I counted at least 22 walkouts before I finally gave up. When I left two volunteers said to me, “Is it over? There are so many people leaving!” We all had a good laugh.

  • erniesouchak

    Too bad. I thought Rian did a great job on a shoestring with “Brick.”

  • ZayTonday

    Sounds just like Brick which was awesome.

  • jackman

    I saw this film a few weeks ago and i have to concur with what you said. Rachel Weisz was great as Penelope, so much so that i think she deserves some Oscar consideration for her very funny and delightful performance. However while Rachel’s performance was golden, the film was no where near as good as she was and with out her performance, the film would have been a complete waste of time.
    I see it for Rachel Weisz but don’t expect the film to be as funny or endearing as she was.

  • jackman

    I saw this film a few weeks ago and i have to concur with what you said. Rachel Weisz was great as Penelope, so much so that i think she deserves some Oscar consideration for her very funny and delightful performance. However while Rachel’s performance was golden, the film was no where near as good as she was and with out her performance, the film would have been a complete waste of time.
    See it for Rachel Weisz but don’t expect the film to be as funny or endearing as she was.

  • p.Vice

    You speak of having taste and yet mud flies at The Life Aquatic? Shame, shame, shame…
    When are we going to start talking about Mickey Rourke?

  • The InSneider

    TOLDJA! Who am I?…. Johnson may deserve props for squeezing the most out of shoestring budgets and having a clear sense of style but Brick has to be one of the most overrated movies ever and I’m not surprised to hear this one sucks too. 22+ walkouts? Jeez… I think the problem is that he can direct but he can’t write. He’s like a male Diablo Cody. Nothing feels organic. It all looks overstylized. He’s got great ideas for stories but he can’t fucking tell them properly. This review bums me out but I have to say, I saw it coming from MILES AWAY.

  • Pinko Punko

    Well, Brick really worked for me. The movie was really interesting under the dialog, which I enjoyed, if gimmicky to some. See what do you call a gimmick that works, or is well done? Is it still a gimmick? Or is it a riff?

  • Jack Price

    Here’s hoping Devin will chime in on this one soon.
    And 22 walkouts out of how many people? A crowd of 200? Less? More?
    I’ll still check it out come December. In terms of sophomore slumps, no way can it be worse than Southland Tales.

  • Drew

    Nonsense. THE BROTHERS BLOOM is lovely and light and fun. I’m not sure if you’ve forgotten the word, Jeff, but it is a valid critical reaction to something, and you don’t have to strike the surly asshole pose just because something aims for fun instead of significance. There are plenty of serious-minded films that will unspool at Toronto this year, but BLOOM isn’t one of them. It is entirely successful at what it aims to do, in my opinion, and if it ends up being divisive, I’m more than comfortable being on the pro side of the argument.

  • MilkMan

    Now here is a man who isn’t afraid to unleash his inner bitch. If Jeff says its silly with this kind of flaming vitriol, then consider me forewarned.
    Rian Johnson tries too hard and I hated Rotten Dirty Scoundrels, even though I could’ve watched two hours of Steve Martin doing his Orangutan Boy schtick.
    I like Brody and Ruffalo. Weisz was cute when I first found out she was Jewish. Lately she seems to be channeling Colleen Dewhurst. Not my type.
    Give me Milk. Give me curdled 70s. Serious men, handsome men, dancing and drugging and fucking on the crest of history.
    I’m tired of criminals. Con Men. Hit Men. I need a break. Give me something else please.

  • Nick Carroway

    The calling-the-younger-brother-“Bloom”-thing drove me absolutely freaking nuts when I read this script a year and a half ago. And “Bang Bang” was called, in an effort to appear cool and not fazed by political correctness, “The Chink.”
    The script read like a Wes Anderson wannabe… and the preview and stills that have emerged only confirm this. I think “Brick” is way overrated as well. Give me the dude who directed “Primer” any day of the week.

  • frankbooth

    There’s a character called “The Chink” in Even Cowgirls Get the Blues.
    I thought that Brick worked, even though it shouldn’t have. But it also seemed like the kind of schtick that could get old fast.

  • MilkMan

    Shane Carruth is going to have a hard time making another movie. I’m sure he’s demanding Kubrickian levels of control. We’ll see if he really wants to be a filmmaker or if he’s okay with being an engineer who made an obscure cult classic. Because everything will be discovered twice for the first time.

  • eoguy

    Jeff, I actually got to witness your frustration with the movie first-hand because I was sitting right beside you before you left. You were talking to someone on the other side of me, though I planned to introduce myself after the screening. Unfortunately for me you bolted.
    Fortunately for you, the film continued to tumble into is mass confusion the further it goes before trying to con the audience at the last minute with the most predictable deception imaginable.
    I’d love to say this movie was a treat, but it was a real dud.

  • YND

    I much prefer THE LIFE AQUATIC to FLOATING WEEDS. (In the interest of full disclosure, FLOATING WEEDS is one of my least favorite Ozu films (blame it on the switch to Daiei from his usual home at Shochiku, but it just doesn’t feel like Ozu to me) and it did take me a couple viewings to fall for LIFE AQUATIC.)
    That is all.

  • EDouglas

    Wow, Jeffrey… I was really surprised you walked out, especially since if you waited about 10 more minutes, you would have been able to see some of the best parts of the movie regarding Bang Bang and Penelope by actually seeing a caper in progress… but to publically vilify the movie and anyone who might like it… you know, those who actually stayed to see the whole movie… really doesn’t make you look very good. I mean, it’s seriously entering curmudgeon critic territory (I won’t mention any names but few of them are under 65 years old)
    I’ve seen the movie TWICE now and while it’s not without problems, I thought it was a worthy enough effort that I should give it the attention it needs, so that I feel I understood it before writing about it. (It’s a very rich film with lots of layers that aren’t too obvious on first viewing.)
    I think people who wrote this one off in the first 40 minutes are the same who wrote off Juno and many other movies that take some time to introduce the characters and get you into their vibe before pulling things together. (Warning: RockNRolla is the same way.)

  • actionman

    I don’t get walking out of movies. I just don’t get it.

  • erniesouchak

    To explain walking out of movies, I have to reference Sam Jackson in “Changing Lanes”: “Can you give me back my TIME? Can you give my TIME back to me????!!!!”

  • Krazy Eyes

    I have no problems with walkouts reviewing a film as long as they state fairly upfront that they walked out before the film was over. That way I can completely discount what they say from that point on.
    I wouldn’t take the number of walkouts as an indicator of anything. Anyone who’s been to a TIFF press screening knows that there are almost always a ton of walkouts.

  • Russ.Fischer

    Walkouts at a TIFF industry screening mean significantly less than they do anywhere else. Maybe the people had seen it and were catching some of it again during free time, or had a scheduling conflict or any possible number of reasons.
    (I walked out of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang in because I needed to see something else that started an hour in and knew I’d be able to see KKBB at home within a month, which is no comment on the movie at all.)
    And it’s day 2 of TIFF. Those volunteers may not know shit yet. Wait until they’re working the doors at a movie that people *really* hate.

  • Richardson

    ‘Brick’ wouldn’t have been terrible at 90 minutes, but it’s a punishing two hours. it has some moments of truly great filmmaking (I even liked the tap shoes thing), but then it has long, long scenes that drain the energy of the movie.
    I so wanted to like it. It sounded right up my alley, and Levitt was great. But… jeez, give me something for my time.

  • NK

    The Brother’s Bloom is great, innovative fun and a hugely progressive step for Johnson. Geez Jeff, sometime’s your film sensibilities just baffle me.

  • NK

    … as does my inability to properly punctuate after midnight.

  • danbloom

    Bloomsday Has Arrived in Hollywood
    How ‘The Brothers Bloom’ madcap tale of globe-trotting style and romance once again puts the faux Hollywood surname ‘Bloom’ in lights
    By Dan Bloom (no relation to any of the Blooms in this story)
    Can anyone tell me what’s with all these Blooms in Hollywood movies? And Broadway shows? There was “Blume in Love” and Leo Bloom in “The Producers” and Claire Bloom and Orlando Bloom in all kinds of films, and now comes “The Brothers Bloom” directed by Rian Johnson. Does somebody have a copyright on the name Bloom? Does Harold Bloom at Yale know anything about this?
    It all began, of course, with James Joyce in Dublin, Ireland, when he wrote “Ulysses” and made Leopold and Molly Bloom his main characters.
    Now “The Brothers Bloom” — starring Adrien Brody and Mark Ruffalo as brothers who target a drop-dead gorgeous heiress played by the drop-dead gorgeous Rachel Weisz — comes at us full steam ahead, full of “Belgians, Russians and Lamborghis”, as one critic put it, and what a blooming mess of a good time it is!
    Bravo, Rian Johnson.
    The movie begins blooming on December 19 in New York and Los Angeles and opens wide on January 16 after the New Year. Will it bloom near you? Check out your local listings on the web to make sure. Previews in Toronto were well-received and word of mouth is spreading, er, blooming.
    But really now, what’s with all these Blooms in Hollywood?
    In the movie, Ruffalo plays Stephen Bloom, the older brother of the duo. Brody plays the younger brother who for some odd reason does not get a first name at all in the entire movie and is just called “Bloom” all the way through.
    That even got Adrien Brody to thinking out loud in an interview he did in Premiere magazine. When reporter Jenni Miller asked him if maybe his name was meant to be was a verb — “to bloom” — in the film, he replied: “That’s probably a good question for [the director/writer Johnson], but maybe it’s true too. Because I’m also referred to as Bloom, which would mean, what, my [name is Mr.] Bloom Bloom? Bloom is blooming? It’s a verb.”
    And that, dear readers, is how the Blooms of the world became known as Blooms. Don’t believe me? Ask Orlando Bloom or Claire Bloom — or Adrien Brody.
    About the Author: Dan Bloom is a Rush PR News news columnist/reporter and a freelance writer from Boston, who has been based in Asia since 1991. He graduated from Tufts University in 1971 and is currently doing research on climate change and global warming as the founder of the Polar Cities Research Institute. Write him at

  • Hi Hitler

    I saw this in LA last night.
    It was the perfect antidote to the shitty films of this awards season.
    Sophomore slump?
    HELL NO!

  • Valentinus

    I like Brody and Ruffalo. Weisz was cute when I first found out she was buy levitra Jewish. Lately she seems to be channeling Colleen Dewhurst. Not my low cost levitra type.

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  • dd

    He was good in Black Hawk Down because the role required him to do nothing more than run and shoot a machine gun, though his final scene is pretty touching. I actually think the best piece of acting he’s ever done was in Lucky Number Slevin, which was OK overall, but had some good performances/good scenes strewn about. I’ve always wanted to see Mozart & the Whale. Hollywood Homocide was pretty bland I thought (really wanted to love it but the lack of an R-rating killed it for me) but he was solid in that as well.
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  • simson444

    I counted at least 22 walkouts before I finally gave up. When I left two volunteers said to me, “Is it over? There are so many people leaving!” We all had a good advisor

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