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Heroes of the Zeroes: The Brothers Bloom

by on February 19, 2010
 

Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films from 2000 to 2009.

“The Brothers Bloom”
Rated PG-13
2009

Rian Johnson is a circus ringleader with a deeply romantic streak — extracting bittersweet laughs and truth from genres built on shopworn seriousness and manipulation.

“Brick” placed poignant teen angst within a detective-story framework, and 2009’s “The Brothers Bloom” used the art of the con as a path to social awakening and pure sibling affection. Like “Brick,” its dialogue carried the cadence of a noirish nursery rhyme, but it played like “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” with a real, racing heart.

Mark Ruffalo and Adrien Brody are Stephen and Bloom Bloom — brothers living life as literature-minded con men. With Bloom looking to get out, Stephen arranges one last swindle — on Penelope (Rachel Weisz), a shut-in heiress.

Johnson injects punchy, off-kilter fantastical charm into his playfully globetrotting film. It’s like a cuckoo clock — precise, ornate and a little screwy-looking. But Bloom and Penelope’s love — and resultant sibling rifts — comes off as real-world collateral.

Resembling Ally Sheedy from “The Breakfast Club” 15 years later, Weisz makes for a delightfully woozy comedienne. With Brody, she shares cautious, guarded chemistry, and Ruffalo’s hair-trigger aspect is always nurturing in nature — a confidence man in a literal, generous sense.

The film’s final notes echo back to two crucial bits of earlier dialogue. So far, Johnson has done nothing in his films that’s snappy or clever simply for the sake of being either one. In “The Brothers Bloom,” he suggested — when planned with the right motivation in mind — love is the perfect con, as everybody gets what they want.

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