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The Brothers Bloom

Much as you and I would hate to run into one of them in real life, confidence men have long been a favorite of filmmakers. Which makes sense, given that movies are the ultimate confidence game, the art of getting millions of people to believe in the reality of something they know isn’t real. Working this well-worn territory is The Brothers Bloom, the second feature by Rian Johnson. His first, Brick, was a nifty tribute to 1940s films noir with Joseph Gordon-Levitt heading a cast of high schoolers who speak perfect Chandlerese, a stunt that Johnson nimbly kept on top of. His new film unfolds with a lot of Wes Anderson-ish whimsy the story of two orphaned brothers who become pros at the “long con,” elaborate schemes that unfold over time for a big payoff. Stephen (an unusually and pleasantly ebullient Mark Ruffalo) is the author, and devises his cons like a Russian novelist. Younger brother Bloom (Adrien Brody) is the star of these schemes, a role he has come to hate as he yearns for a life where he’s not pretending to be something he’s not. Fans of James Joyce will not be surprised to learn that their final mark is named Penelope (Rachel Weisz), a sheltered rich girl who is so desperate for a little adventure that she practically leads the way in a scheme to defraud her that takes them around Europe. The focus is on character, and Weisz easily steals the movie as she shows off an array of useless skills she has picked up over the years (like juggling chainsaws) and enthusiastically experiences her first kiss. It’s charmingly quirky for awhile, but ultimately runs up against the fact that we’ve seen too many movies of this kind—The Sting, House of Games, The Spanish Prisoner—where the filmmaker wants us to think we’re on top of things until he throws the final curtain back at the end. Some viewers may enjoy the way Johnson resolves his tale, but along the way I got tired of playing this game of trying to outguess the film when all I wanted to do was enjoy the characters.

m. faust

Watch the trailer for The Brothers Bloom

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