The Brothers Bloom (2008)

(In theatres, July 2009): It’s a familiar and dispiriting feeling to watch a brilliant first ten minutes of a film lead to a good middle hour and then on to an average third act.  So it is that The Brothers Bloom (yes, there’s a meaningful pun in the title given that “Bloom” is the first name of one of the brothers) over-thinks itself all the way into a box stamped “I don’t care anymore”: As a self-aware story about two con artists and their latest (last?) scam, it’s always engaged in a war of deception with its audience, and if that works when the audience is pleased with an ending, it’s not so amusing when the story keeps going where the audience is unwilling to follow.  There was a point, late during the film, when I thought that the film was ninety seconds and ten lines of dialogue away from a happy ending; alas, it just kept going in another darker direction, jettisoning the absurd comedy that was such a highlight of the film’s first sequences.  The Brothers Bloom may not be taking place in our world (what with bowler hats, steamships and cellular phones), but it’s certainly taking place in the con-movie continuum, and its attempts to buck the formula carry a penalty.  It’s a shame that the film we get isn’t the charming offbeat comedy that the trailer and the first half of the movie promised to us.  Oh, it’s not a complete loss: Rachel Weisz has seldom been as captivating as she is as an eccentric millionaire; Rinko Kikuchi is hilarious as a quiet demolition expert; there are a few fantastic moments along the way; and at times it’s handled with an old-fashioned charm that makes one long for far many more movies of that type.  But The Brothers Bloom is easily three twists and twenty minutes longer than it should be, so that by the time it ends on a note meant to make audiences reflect on the nature of storytelling-as-cons, nobody will care as much as they should have.  Card tricks are tough, but movie tricks are even tougher.

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