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The Brothers Bloom

Promotional poster
Directed by Rian Johnson
Produced by Wendy Japhet
Ram Bergman
James D. Stern
Written by Rian Johnson
Narrated by Ricky Jay
Starring Rachel Weisz
Adrien Brody
Mark Ruffalo
Rinko Kikuchi
Maximillian Schell
Robbie Coltrane
Music by Nathan Johnson
Cinematography Steve Yedlin
Distributed by Summit Entertainment
Release date(s) Toronto Film Festival
September 9, 2008
United States limited
May 15, 2009
Running time 113 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $20 million
Gross revenue $3,379,513[1]

The Brothers Bloom is a 2009 American postmodern caper film written and directed by Rian Johnson. The film stars Mark Ruffalo, Adrien Brody, Rachel Weisz, Ricky Jay, Rinko Kikuchi, and Robbie Coltrane. Originally released in only four theaters on May 15, 2009, the film moved into wide release two weeks later on May 29.[2]

Contents

Plot

The film opens during the childhood of the orphaned protagonists, Stephen (Mark Ruffalo) and Bloom (Adrien Brody). Stephen, the older of the two, instigates various acts of dishonesty and mayhem, while younger brother Bloom is content to play along with the shenanigans. The brothers' unrepentant mischief making causes their constant eviction from one foster home to the next. This prologue is narrated by magician Ricky Jay, foreshadowing the film's later focus on card tricks and sleight of hand.

Eventually, the brothers are transferred to a close-knit small town filled with friendly children their age. Bloom begins to long for the comfort of a normal and honest social life, and develops a crush on one of the girls there, although he is too shy to approach anyone, and therefore keeps his feelings inside. Stephen notices this however, and, realizing he can use his brother's interest in the children, and at the same time help his brother enjoy the social warmth he desires, creates a role for his brother to play so he may befriend the children, and help them execute their first con.

Stephen has Bloom convince his new friends that a mysterious old man told him of a cave that contains a magical creature. The man, Bloom claims, will reveal the location of the cave for $30. The children believe the story, collect $30 among the group, and venture out to the cave. Stephen hides inside the cave just out of their sight, waving a lantern to hint at the magic fairy just out of sight. The excited children run toward the light. Bloom, caught up in the moment, runs too, but, catching sight of his brother, remembers the hollow con and becomes disheartened. The other children, however, are gleeful as they gallop through the muddy cave. Later, however, the fuming parents of the hoodwinked children confront the brothers' foster parents. The boys return the $30, but end up profiting through the con's true target: they take a cut of the profits made by the town's lone dry cleaner, who benefited by cleaning the muddy clothes of the bamboozled children. The brothers are soon evicted to another foster home.

The film picks up 25 years later with a party celebrating the successful end of the brother's latest con. While Stephen celebrates, Bloom wanders into a quiet room contemplating his dishonest life, one that seems to lack substance. He realizes that his brother controls his "story," albeit with the best intentions. Bloom decides to make good on his recurring threat to leave the con business, and he moves to Montenegro. Three months later Stephen finds him and asks Bloom to help execute one final con. The two will masquerade as two antique dealers and, along with their associate Bang Bang (Rinko Kikuchi), a Japanese explosives expert, will con Penelope Stamp (Rachel Weisz), a rich, socially-isolated New Jersey heiress. Bloom reluctantly agrees to the scheme, and the three travel to New Jersey to meet Penelope. The plan is for Bloom to meet Penelope through a staged car accident, where she will hit him while he rides a bike. The plan fails however, when Penelope accidentally suffers a seizure after hitting the bike, injuring herself instead of Bloom.

After Penelope is discharged from the hospital Bloom drives her home and the two talk. Penelope reveals that she was confined alone inside her home until she was 19 due to an incorrect allergy diagnosis, and later she acted as a caregiver for her dying mother. She also "collects" hobbies, and has developed many unusual talents ranging from juggling chainsaws to making pinhole cameras. Bloom hints that he and his brother are leaving the country by ship the next day. At the harbor the next morning, Penelope arrives to accompany Bloom, her first real friend, and Stephen and Bang Bang on their excursion to Greece. Aboard the ship that night a Belgian man, Maximillen "The Curator" Melville (Robbie Coltrane), hired by Stephen, tells Penelope that the Brothers Bloom are not antique dealers, but antique smugglers. An enchanted Penelope decides to become a smuggler as well.

The four arrive in Greece, where Melville, as instructed by Stephen, offers Penelope a fake smuggling job of retrieving an ancient book from a hidden chamber in a museum in Prague, for an Argentine collector. Penelope convinces the Brothers to travel to Prague with her, unaware that this is all planned and staged. On the train to Prague, Penelope expresses affection for Bloom.

They arrive in Prague the next day, and meet again with Maximillen, who tells them the location of the book in the museum. However, Maximillen cons Penelope out of a million dollars and escapes, resulting in Bloom and Stephen thinking the job was well done. However, Penelope decides to actually steal the book. The plan is for Bang Bang to place some explosives in the Prague Castle which are small enough to only set off the fire alarm and make everybody evacuate the building. However, Penelope accidentally packs in too much explosive and blows up an entire tower, resulting in the military being called in; but Penelope, unaware of the military presence, enters the museum nonetheless. She retrieves the book but messily tries to escape through a ventilation shaft, which gives out under her weight and drops her into a room filled with armed soldiers. However, much to the surprise of the Bloom brothers and Bang Bang, Penelope somehow convinces the chief of police to let her go.

While awaiting to head for the end zone of the con, they stay in a hotel. While in the hotel, Bloom is visited by the former mentor of the Brothers, and their current enemy, Diamond Dog (Maximilian Schell), who warns him that since Stephen won't be around to help him with the cons forever, Bloom should join him. Bloom turns down the offer just as Stephen arrives; and an angered Stephen stabs Diamond Dog in the hand with a broken bottle, telling him to "stay away".

The party travels to Mexico, where the con is planned to end. Guilt ridden Bloom tells Penelope that they are con men. This was anticipated by Stephen, who is waiting for Bloom and Penelope in the room where the money is located. A fight develops between Stephen and Bloom and accidentally a gun is knocked down and discharged and Stephen appears to be shot and dying in Bloom's arms. Penelope checks out the wound and realizes that its fake blood and she is being conned again, leaving with a broken heart. Bloom, angry at Stephen, punches him out and leaves to Montenegro. Three month later, he is visited by Penelope, who blows up her house and leaves everything to be with Bloom and to become a con artist as well. Not able to deny his love for her, he meets with Stephen to set up one final con to end it all, for Penelope's sake.

The brothers set off to St. Petersburg for their final con which involves selling the book to the Russian mob which includes all of them getting ambushed and killed while Bloom, getting shot to help Penelope, escapes. To pull this, Stephen is forced to hire Diamond Dog to assist them, since he is the leader of the only Russian mobsters willing to deal with con men.

The plan goes awry however, when they are ambushed by Diamond Dog's Russian gang while headed for the initial exchange. In the aftermath of the ambush, Stephen is kidnapped and held for 1.75 million dollars. Bloom suspects this is just another con by Stephen and is unsure on what to do; but Penelope, just in case, wires the money by her bank account to the mobsters. Before the exchange, Bang Bang decides to leave the group and makes her exit by car bomb; leaving Penelope and Bloom uncertain on whether she was really killed or if she just faked her death.

Bloom goes to the exchange, with Penelope waiting for him outside in a getaway car. The exchange takes place inside a run down theater where Bloom finds Stephen tied up and beaten severely. After noticing Stephen, Bloom is attacked by one of Diamond Dog's hitmen, and a shoot out ensues. Stephen is injured during the gun fight and the single unseen hitman escapes. Before Bloom can chase the assassin, Stephen succumbs to his injury, goes into seizure and collapses on the floor. A horrified Bloom asks Stephen whether this was real, or just the "perfect con." Stephen gets up and reveals it was his own doing; Stephen then tells Bloom to think of a card out of a deck. Stephen reveals the Queen of Hearts and Bloom responds with "That's the best card trick I've ever seen," fulfilling a pseudo-prophecy made by Stephen earlier in the film. Stephen tells Bloom to go, telling him to leave St. Petersburg forever with Penelope and that they'll "meet again sometime."

Later, Bloom wakes up in the car and slowly discovers that Stephen's blood stain on his shirt has turned from red to brown (earlier in the film, it is noted that the one flaw of fake blood is its inability to change color). The scene changes back to Stephen, who is dragging the chair to the center of the stage. Still bleeding from the gunshot, he slowly sits down pushes the Queen of Hearts up his sleeve (suggesting he knew what card Bloom would be thinking about) and dies. Bloom, realizing what actually happened, breaks down on the side of the road while Penelope is trying to comfort him. She tells him what Stephen once told her, "That there are no such thing as unwritten life. Just a badly written one." She tells him that they're going to live like they're telling the best story in the whole world. As they're leaving, Bloom reminisces about another thing Stephen had once told him, "The perfect con is one where everyone involved gets just the thing they wanted." For Penelope and Bloom, what they wanted was life with each other, while for Stephen it was to write a con so perfect it became real, and, like their first con, left everyone involved happy in the end. Bloom and Penelope drive off into the distance as the film ends.

Cast

  • Adrien Brody as Bloom: When Brody first got the script he was working on The Darjeeling Limited and "was impressed by its originality and subtlety." While working on the film Brody considered a "bromance" to have formed between himself and Ruffalo which led to more genuine rapport between them.[3]
  • Mark Ruffalo as Stephen: When Johnson first sat down with Ruffalo it was for the part of Bloom but his actual personality was so similar to Stephen, Johnson chose to switch.[4]
  • Rachel Weisz as Penelope Stamp: Weisz was being offered mostly drama roles but was interested in doing a comedy. She was drawn to the script because it is well written but still unusual. After Weisz decided on it she told her agent, "this is the one, this is the one." While working on the film she developed a rapport with her costar Adrien Brody.[5]
  • Rinko Kikuchi as Bang Bang: Johnson didn't write the part for Kikuchi but was nervous when casting her; he was not sure she would want another mute part after being mute in her last American film, Babel.[6]
  • Robbie Coltrane as Maximillen "The Curator" Melvile: A hire of the brothers who poses as the curator of a museum in Prague who steals objects from the museum and sells them on the black market. Stephen hires him to help trick Penelope into thinking he and Bloom are antique smugglers; a deleted scene also reveals he had a daughter who died at the age of 6, and he keeps a painting of a well (in reference to a tale of the golem) out of commemoration of her.
  • Maximilian Schell as Diamond Dog: An old Russian mob boss and former mentor of the Brothers Bloom, but is now their sworn enemy. He is portrayed as having only his right eye. Stephen explains that he is the one who stabbed out the left eye, in order to help he and his younger brother escape the abusive mentor. This is later revealed mostly in deleted scenes as insinuated sexual abuse, something Johnson ultimately cut out of the movie so as not to distract or darken the film by too many degrees. He is also identified by his diamond-crested cigarette lighter, that he clicks as a habit.
  • Ricky Jay as Narrator
  • Zachary Gordon as Young Bloom
  • Max Records as Young Stephen
  • Nora Zehetner as Rose

Joseph Gordon-Levitt who starred in Rian Johnson's Brick, has a brief cameo as a patron at the bar early on in the film.

Production

The original script was titled Penelope after Weisz's character. Shooting began in Ulcinj, Montenegro on March 19, 2007. The film had a budget of $20 million.

Script and development

"Paper Moon is probably the closest to a direct influence. I love The Sting and House of Games, but Paper Moon was really the first thing I watched that took more of a fairy-tale approach and was more relationship based. Other than that, God, take your pick."

—Rian Johnson, director/writer[7]

Johnson first had the idea for The Brothers Bloom a few years before Brick. Originally the film was going to be more serious and had a mentor relationship instead of brothers. He started writing the script after taking Brick to Sundance over the next sixth months.[8] The script was challenging for Johnson to write because he wanted to create a character-based con man film with an "emotional payoff" while including all the story telling aspects of the genre. Johnson felt by sticking to a standard form of a con man film (two guys with one girl and one of them falls in love with the girl) he could deviate from the classical ending with a big twist.[4] When writing the script Johnson watched The Man Who Would Be King but his main influence came from Paper Moon. While filming the movie he watched The Conformist and for visual style.[7]

Filming locations

Penelope's castle is the Peles Castle in Sinaia, Romania. Other locations include the Constanta Casino, the Port of Constanta (Romania) and various locations in Greece.

Penelope's skills

During the two week rehearsal period Weisz had to learn to look like she could do all the skills that her character Penelope knew. This included banjo, violin, guitar, piano, juggling, break dancing, skateboarding, and card tricks.[9] Brody helped Weisz learn to skateboard; she said, "Brody is a good skateboarder, so we were in the parking lot outside the place we were filming."[10] Brody also helped her to learn to rap; when she first tried "he was so ashamed."[11] The card trick was the most difficult for Weisz and took her a month of practicing every day to learn.[12] The shot itself took 11 or so takes, but the one continuous shot in the film is not enhanced in any way.[13]

Score

The Brothers Bloom
Film score by Nathan Johnson
Released May 19, 2009 (2009-05-19)
Length 48:12
Label Cut Narrative Records

Director Rian Johnson's cousin, musician Nathan Johnson, composed the score for the film as he did on Johnson's directorial debut, Brick. Three songs in the film are not available on the soundtrack:"Tonight I'll Be Staying Here With You" by Bob Dylan, "Miles From Nowhere" by Cat Stevens, and "Sleeping" by The Band, which was performed karaoke-style by Rinko Kikuchi. Rian Johnson listened to The Band while writing the script, and their music was a major influence on the score. In a digitally-released soundtrack companion booklet, Nathan Johnson said that since the film was about storytelling, it made sense to use lyric-based songs as an inspiration. He also credited Italian composer Nino Rota as an influence.

Track listing
Track Title Length
1. "Brothers In A One Hat Town (Overture)"   5:03
2. "Cackle Bladder"   2:09
3. "Charleston's Denoument"   1:14
4. "This Is Camels"   1:43
5. "Montenegro"   1:00
6. "Meeting Penelope"   1:18
7. "An Enlightened Euphoria"   3:06
8. "Double Dutch Queens"   1:08
9. "The Curator"   1:19
10. "The Grecian Docks"   2:12
11. "Penelope's Theme"   2:42
12. "The Diamond Dog"   3:04
13. "The Castle Heist"   2:53
14. "Mexico"   2:13
15. "Off-script"   2:46
16. "An Empty Stage"   2:53
17. "Cackle Bladder (Revisited)"   1:17
18. "The Perfect Con"   6:43
19. "The Fabulist"   3:29

Release

The Brothers Bloom had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 9, 2008.[14] The film was then screened as the opening night feature at the Boston Independent Film Festival on April 22, 2009. At the Newport Beach Film Fest Johnson won a festival honors award in the category of Outstanding Achievement in Directing.[15] The first seven minutes of the film were posted to the online streaming video site, Hulu, on April 23, 2009.[16]

The Brothers Bloom opened in limited release in four theaters on May 15, 2009[2] and expanded into wide release on May 29, 2009.

The DVD and Blu-ray were available to rent in America on September 29, 2009 and to buy on January 12, 2010. Strangely, as of Feb 2010 it still hasn't had its UK release.

Reception

The Brothers Bloom received mixed reviews from critics. Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a 64% rating based on an aggregate of top critics, saying that while the film has "strong performances" it "does not fulfill its ambitions."

Box office

The Brothers Bloom opened in four theaters in the U.S. in its first week, earning $90,400.[1] During the memorial day weekend from May 23, 2009 to May 25, 2009, the first weekend after its initial limited release, The Brothers Bloom grossed $495,527, from 52 theaters, ranking it #15. During its wide release weekend starting May 29, 2009, in 148 theaters the film grossed $627,971, ranking it #11.[17] As of February 2010, the film has grossed $3,531,756 domestically and had its widest release of 209 theaters,[1] with a total worldwide gross of $4,648,290.

Literary allusions

On the commentary track Johnson released for viewers to listen to in the theaters, Johnson discusses the film's allusions to James Joyce's Ulysses,[18] a novel that itself alludes to many other literary works, the most clearly being Homer's Odyssey.[19] The names of the brothers Stephen and Bloom refer to the primary characters of Stephen Dedalus and Leopold Bloom. The Bloom of Joyce's epic serves as a modern analogy for Odysseus, but his wife Molly violates the expectations of the traditionally perfectly loyal character of Penelope, as throughout Joyce's book her liaison with Blazes Boylan is obsessed over by Bloom, and the act of infidelity is generally agreed by critics to have been consummated while Bloom actively absented himself from the house. In an inconsistent treatment of the characters of Bloom, Stephen, and Penelope, Weisz's character Penelope remains loyal to Brody's Bloom throughout the film's various turns. While the film doesn't directly translate one to one with the novel, many of the same concepts are examined. For instance, the subjectivity of truth. For the people being conned, they truly are experiencing emotional connection, while for Stephen and Bloom it is all an act. Also the idea of parallax that plays a large role in Joyce's novel can be seen in terms of Penelope's photography as always representing reality but also always distorted. Another major theme from Joyce is the idea of the ability of language to represent reality. There is a line in Ulysses where a character means to write world but accidentally writes word. In the film Penelope continually describes experience in reference to the "plot of her life", this is contrasted by the fact that Bloom and Stephen are living their lives only as a series of different characters that Stephen creates. However, Penelope's sexual excitement on the train is reminiscent of the final chapter of Ulysses, an episode often referred to as "Penelope" (the chapters in the book themselves are untitled, but in the schemata Joyce distributed to trusted associates, the parallel of each chapter with chapters of the Odyssey is made explicit), which concludes with Molly Bloom's soliloquy. Also in the film, the Greek figure of Daedalus is alluded to primarily in the speeches by the one-eyed Diamond Dog, the stained glass window in The Curator's residence, and in the persistent tinkering actions of Stephen; in one scene, in a hospital, Stephen is dressed as a doctor, and his nametag says "Dr. Daedalus." Diamond Dog, who is arguably Bloom's greatest antagonist, may also be a loose representation of Cyclops. The Cyclops, in both the Odyssey and Ulysses, is posed as Ulysses/Bloom's enemy.

In the film itself, Penelope comments on the allusion to Herman Melville's final novel, The Confidence-Man, when she encounters the Belgian named Melvile on the boat Fidele, the name of the boat in the novel. The implication is that Stephen has deliberately placed this reference.

The brothers refer to their unethical former mentor Diamond Dog as their "Fagin," an allusion to the pickpocket who takes orphans under his wing in Charles Dickens' novel Oliver Twist.

References

  1. ^ a b c "The Brothers Bloom (2009)". Box Office Mojo. http://boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=brothersbloom.htm. Retrieved 2009-06-04. 
  2. ^ a b "The Brothers Bloom (2009) - Daily Box Office Results". Box Office Mojo. http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?page=daily&id=brothersbloom.htm. Retrieved 2009-05-25. 
  3. ^ "Adrien Brody bonds with 'Brothers Bloom' co-star Mark Ruffalo". The Canadian Press. May 21, 2009. http://www.whistlerquestion.com/article/GB/20090520/CP05/305209920/1030/whistler/adrien-brody-bonds-with-brothers-bloom-co-star-mark-ruffalo&template=cpart. Retrieved 2009-05-27. 
  4. ^ a b Tate, Josh (May 22, 2009). "LAist Interview: Rian Johnson, director, The Brothers Bloom". LAist. http://laist.com/2009/05/22/laist_interview_rian_johnson_direct.php. Retrieved 2009-05-27. 
  5. ^ Allen, Nick (May 3, 2009). "Rachel Weisz - The Brother’s Bloom". The Scorecard Review. http://thescorecardreview.com/interviews/2009/05/03/rachel-weisz-the-brothers-bloom/1873. Retrieved 2009-05-05. 
  6. ^ Nayman, Adam (May 20, 2009). "Rian Johnson Interview". Eye Weekly. http://www.eyeweekly.com/film/interview/article/61104. Retrieved 2009-05-27. 
  7. ^ a b Monfette, Christopher. "Rian Johnson Interview". IGN. http://movies.ign.com/articles/982/982039p1.html. Retrieved 2009-05-18. 
  8. ^ Billington, Alex (May 13, 2009). "Interview: The Brothers Bloom Director Rian Johnson". firstshowing.net. http://www.firstshowing.net/2009/05/13/interview-the-brothers-bloom-director-rian-johnson/. Retrieved 2009-05-18. 
  9. ^ Symkus, Ed (May 17, 2009). "Rachel Weisz shows off silly side in 'The Brothers Bloom'". Norwich Bulletin. http://www.norwichbulletin.com/entertainment/x1518884455/Rachel-Weisz-shows-off-silly-side-in-The-Brothers-Bloom. Retrieved 2009-05-18. 
  10. ^ Douglas, Edward (May 14, 2009). "Rachel Weisz Takes on The Brothers Bloom". comingsoon.net. http://www.comingsoon.net/news/movienews.php?id=55126. Retrieved 2009-05-18. 
  11. ^ Hill, Logan (August 24, 2009). "Funny Girl?". New York Magazine. http://nymag.com/guides/fallpreview/2008/movies/49548/. Retrieved 2009-05-18. 
  12. ^ "Rachel picks up hobbies for Bloom". The Press Association. May 13, 2009. http://entertainment.uk.msn.com/celebrity/news/Article.aspx?cp-documentid=16794664. Retrieved 2009-05-18. 
  13. ^ "[Rian Johnson on The Brothers Bloom]". [Plastic]. May 06, 2009.
  14. ^ "TIFF Review: The Brothers Bloom". http://forizzer69.wordpress.com/tiff-review-the-brothers-bloom/. Retrieved 2009-05-07. 
  15. ^ "The 2009 Newport Beach Film Festival Awards". Newport Beach Film Fest. http://www.newportbeachfilmfest.com/awards09.html. Retrieved 2009-05-05. 
  16. ^ "Watch the First 7 Minutes of The Brother's Bloom!". Movie Web. http://www.movieweb.com/news/NEroSyuttJClvt. Retrieved 2009-04-26. 
  17. ^ "The Brothers Bloom (2009) - Weekend Box Office Results". Box Office Mojo. http://boxofficemojo.com/movies/?page=weekend&id=brothersbloom.htm. Retrieved 2009-06-10. 
  18. ^ "The Brothers Bloom -Dir. Rian Johnson". Tiny Mix Tapes. http://www.tinymixtapes.com/The-Brothers-Bloom. Retrieved 2009-10-05. 
  19. ^ "Joyce's Ulysses". thinkquest. http://library.thinkquest.org/19300/data/CompMyth/ulysses.htm. Retrieved 2009-10-05. 

External links








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