Okay, here are my thoughts I had last Saturday night on the train after The Brothers Bloom in Chicago:
I just got out of my second viewing of The Brothers Bloom. Once again, I made a feeble attempt to articulate my views on this grand piece of art to it’s creator and our collective overlord, and once again I was reduced to a stammering fanboy in his presence. So it goes. As such, I believe it to be time for me to attempt expressing such views in the format which I am ever so slightly more proficient; typing. Here it goes.
Ahem. Let me try again. The Brothers Bloom is a solid work art, on all
levels. After my first viewing of Brick, I was pretty lost. It was only after reading the plot synopsis and a second viewing that I really understood what all went down. So for my first viewing of Bloom last October, I went in prepared to sort out names and intertwining plots and purposely vague suggestions, and while I gathered more than enough to be entertained, the insanity of the night as a whole had my mind in a thousand different places, so that when the credits rolled, I was still a bit unsure of what had REALLY happened (although I knew that I liked it!) Only now do I believe I have once again assembled all the pieces, sorted out the twists, gotten a good look at the mystery of it all, and can finally take a step back and say “Wow.” And I wouldn’t have it any other way. Rian mentioned something at the Q & A about striving to strike a balance between dialog being to expository and leaving enough up to be inferred through looks/actions/notions etc, and I feel that balance was just right. A bit of confusion the first time around on my part has lead to a remarkably fulfilling second go, and more astute and focused viewers may assuredly be having an equally fulfilling initial viewing. So now I feel that I understand the characters, and what they’ve gone through on this crazy journey, but the best part is, I know there’s still much to be discovered. I’ll admit I haven’t read Uyllessus (sp) and don’t yet understand the parallels, but beyond hidden nods and references, there are still whole characters to come to understand. Each one of these “characters” is a whole person (a quality terribly lacking in many of films subjects). I can imagine I will be saying something to the effect of “It makes so much sense now!” after each of my viewings, and they are sure to be numerous, because with each viewing it seems there is so much to be gained and understood.
The replay value of this film is great, with much to discover and never a moment to be bored. The pacing is immaculate, and the balance of comedy and action is unparalleled. Scenes segue perfectly from a hearty laugh, to a tender moment of romance, or nail biting mystery or- Wait, no. That’s a lie. They don’t segue. That’s the beauty of it. The comedy, passion etc are all there at the same time, always, working together and feeding off of one another, which I believe really sets the film apart from others “like” it, although there really are none. I feel here I should address the ever present W.A. comparisons. I myself was guilty of such a simile after the Chicago Int’l Film Fest showing, but at the time, my understanding of Bloom was rather meager, and my repertoire of viewed Anderson films was minuscule. I can now honestly say that The Brothers Bloom is in no way, to me, reminiscent of to the work of Wes Andersen. Not at all. There’s Adrian Broody and a train. That’s. About. It. The cinematography is completely it’s own. Andersen’s got his own style, and it’s not here. Fortunately, he doesn’t have a patent on zooms and pans. This is honest film making, with the composition of each shot serving the story, not style for styles sake. Also, light is used magnificently throughout. The little track-lights leading up the the Mexican villa and the glowing window panes in St. Petersburg come to mind, and of course the commanding, mysteriously opperational spotlight in the ruined theater. I’m also a sucker for that “golden hour” light which Penelope appears to be standing in near the end as she helps Bloom up in slow motion, subsequently my favorite shot of the film. Rian, was that color correction, or natural golden hour sun light? In looked great.
Anyway, it all looks beautiful, every moment, which set the bar high for a score that could do such fantastic images justice. I won’t try to best Sarah’s description of the emotional impact of Penelope’s Theme, as it was spot on. Nathan, I hope you didn’t really put ALL of yourself into this score, because I and assuredly everyone else here looks forward to hearing a lot more from you in the years to come. The really remarkable thing about the music is that, while stunning and beyond entertaining on it’s own, it never demands attention or distracts from the film. It supports the characters and pulls us in (or me, at least), while never telling the viewer exactly what to think. I’ve never been on a trip around the world, been part of an elaborate con, or even dealt with the death of someone very close to me, but listening to this music while watching this film, I find myself feeling I have. It got inside my head and I found myself nodding, thinking “Yes, yes, this is so right. It’s accurate and it’s true. This is how it is.” When really, I have no idea. Well, I think I do now. I can't praise this score enough, and as mentioned, it has become my summer driving soundtrack. I actually listened to it all the way to the train station tonight, and intent to listen again on my way home. It's addicting, not unlike methamphetamine. In this case, that's a good thing.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t take a moment to praise the performances of all the leading characters. I should add that sometimes, when reviewing/praising a movie, some, myself included, seem to feel a need to mention all the leading actors/actresses, even though some may have been exceptionally better or worse than others. This is honestly not the case here. These four delivered four strong, engaging performances, together, and have earned their praise, for certain. I mentioned before that each character feels like a whole person, with infinite facets to explore, and this is in equal parts to the fimls fantastic writing, and to the characters themselves. This second time around, Rinko’s perforamce really stood out to me. Little things like the “Call me!” gesture or the looks she gives Bloom before pulling a Dark Knight-esque dissapearing act are perfect. I’ve heard comparisons to Chewy, and those seem a little off. I feel with Chewbacca, what we see is what we get. Thanks to Rinko, Bang-Bang isn’t so simple. And honestly, all the leading rolls seemed perfectly cast and executed. I think Duane mentioned something to the effect of this being Ruffalo first really remarkable role, and I’ve got to agree with that. He brings, especially during his monologue in the Mexican villa, and his final scene. Brody is solid throughout, and it feels as if the character really got into him (or vice versa). Whether that’s true or just acting, so be it, but I believed every word he said. My favorite moment with him was easily the bit when he runs into the train car with the pillowcase of stolen snacks, so genuinely excited. And thanks to this movie and her work on The Fountain, I’m pretty sure Rachel now gets a place on my “Free Pass for Life” list. Her delivery is impeckable (“I’m so horny!” being a stand out moment) but I think the highlight of her performance is the scene after she gets away from the Chief of Police, and reveals to have gotten away with the book. In that moment as she squeels with laughter and jumps around, I’m reminded of the opening scene, when the young Bloom forgets it’s all fake and rushes into the cave with the rest of them. Racheal is so into that moment, it doesn’t feel like we’re watching Weisz acting in a movie. It feels, to me, like it’s honestly happening, and that we’re seeing true, unbound joy for that one moment. It’s impressive, and has the potential to be both heart-warming and heart-breaking, depending on your angle of approach.
And now, back to the story. “The Unwritten Life” seems to be the most important idea The Brothers Bloom presents. It’s not really a story about “conning”, nor a a story about “love”. It’s message is deeper (and buried deeper) then such simple surface generalities. One must look for and interpret the meaning, almost as if the film had some sort of subtext. That is, if all writers who used subtext weren’t cowards. In the end, The Brothers Bloom actually has something rather profound to say about the human condition (another quality seemingly lacking in the vast majority of films). The Brothers Bloom exams ones perception of their own life, coming to terms with what is real, and taking control to make of it what you will. It’s not saying “Give up and accept what you are,” nor “Break out of tradition and society and do something crazy!” It’s message is much more subtle then that, I won’t go on making sweeping generalizations and trivial interpretations of personal significance. I’ll just say for me, this film is personally significant, and I hope it is for you, too.
Now, we know my love for Brick is deep and wide, it being the reason for my presence on this fantastic forum these past several years (and hopefully years to come!). So trust I mean Brick no disrespect whatsoever when I say that, should it come down to comparing the works of Rian Johnson head to head, I find he has outdone himself this time, as The Brothers Bloom is the superior work. This film’s got it all and a little more, and I can't praise it enough. I believe it will be a grand tragedy if The Brothers Bloom and it’s creators don’t gain the critical and box office success they deserve. I look up to you and what you've done, Mr. Johnson, more than you may know. Great fucking job.
And now, we wait for Looper.