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The Brothers Bloom is a 2008 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.
PlotThe Brothers Bloom start their adventures in confidence games as young children; Stephen dreams up elaborate scenarios and his younger brother, Bloom, creates trust with the marks. The brothers’ successful cons and the fiercely protective nature of Stephen has the children rejected from foster homes throughout their childhood.
25 years later the brothers are celebrating the end of another con. At the party Bloom realizes that Stephen controls everything in their lives. Bloom decides to quit and move to Montenegro. Three months later Stephen finds Bloom and convinces him to execute one final con masquerading as antique dealers with Bang Bang, a Japanese explosives expert. The con is on Penelope Stamp, a rich socially-isolated New Jersey heiress. To meet, Bloom stages a car accident but during the accident she seizures and is taken to the hospital.
Penelope is discharged and reveals to Bloom that she was alone for most of her life. Bloom hints that he is leaving the country tomorrow. Next morning at the harbor Penelope arrives to accompany Bloom to Greece. Maximillen, a Belgian hired by Stephen, tells Penelope that the Brothers Bloom are in fact antique smugglers. Enchanted, Penelope decides to become a smuggler. Maximillen, as instructed by Stephen, offers Penelope a smuggling job of retrieving a book from a museum in Prague. Penelope convinces the Brothers to travel to Prague, unaware it is staged. On the train Penelope expresses affection for Bloom.
In Prague they meet with Maximillen to plan stealing the book. According to Stephen's plan, Maximillen cons Penelope out of a million dollars and escapes. Penelope decides to steal the book anyway. The plan is to place explosives in Prague Castle to set off the fire alarm, evacuating the building. Instead Penelope accidentally blows up the entire tower, resulting in the military arriving; Penelope, unaware of the military, enters the museum. She retrieves the book and during escape through a ventilation shaft, it gives out dropping her into a room filled with soldiers. Penelope convinces the chief of police to let her go.
While in their hotel's bar, Bloom is visited by the former mentor of the Brothers, and current enemy, Diamond Dog. He warns Bloom that Stephen will not be around forever, Bloom should join him. Bloom turns down the offer as Stephen arrives; Stephen stabs Diamond Dog in the hand with a broken bottle, telling him to "stay away."
In Mexico Bloom tells Penelope they are con men which was anticipated by Stephen. The brothers fight and a gun accidentially discharges, Stephen is shot. Penelope checks out the wound, realizes that it is fake blood, and leaves with a broken heart. Bloom punches Stephen and leaves for Montenegro. Three months later, Penelope visits Bloom to become a con artist. Not able to deny his love for her, he meets with Stephen to set up one final con.
The brothers set off to St. Petersburg where they must sell the book to Diamond Dog. They are ambushed by Diamond Dog's gang while headed to the exchange. Stephen is kidnapped and held for $1.75 million. Bloom suspects this is just another con by Stephen; Penelope, just in case, wires the money by her bank account to the mobsters. Before the exchange, Bang Bang decides to leave and makes her exit by car bomb; leaving Penelope and Bloom uncertain she faked her death.
Alone Bloom goes into the theater for the exchange. Bloom finds Stephen tied up and beaten. A hitman attacks them and Stephen gets shot. Stephen succumbs to his injury and collapses on the floor. Bloom asks Stephen whether this was real, or just the "perfect con." Stephen gets up and reveals that he is fine. Stephen tells Bloom to leave St. Petersburg forever with Penelope and that they will meet again.
Bloom wakes up in the car and discovers that Stephen's blood stain on his shirt is real. Realizing that Stephen has died, Bloom breaks down on the side of the road while Penelope tries to comfort him. As they are leaving, Bloom recalls what Stephen had said, "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. Stephen pulls the "perfect con", Diamond Dog really gets revenge, and Bloom and Penelope drive off.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Robbie Coltrane as Maximillen "The Curator" Melvile
- Maximilian Schell as Diamond Dog
- Ricky Jay as Narrator
- Zachary Gordon as Young Bloom
- Max Records as Young Stephen
- Nora Zehetner as Rose
- Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Bar Patron (uncredited cameo)
ProductionThe original script was titled Penelope after Weisz's character. Shooting began in Ulcinj, Montenegro on March 19, 2007. The film had an estimated 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/writerJohnson 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. 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. 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 8½ for visual style.
Filming locationsPenelope's castle is the Peles Castle in Sinaia, Romania. Other locations include Belgrade (Serbia), the Constanta Casino, the Port of Constanta (Romania) and various locations in Greece and Montenegro. Scene on the old bridge with police officer and book is on the St. Charles Bridge in Prague.
Penelope's skillsDuring 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. 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." Brody also helped her to learn to rap; when she first tried "he was so ashamed." The card trick was the most difficult for Weisz and took her a month of practicing every day to learn. The shot itself took 11 or so takes, but the one continuous shot in the film is not enhanced in any way.
The Brothers Bloom Film score by Nathan Johnson Released May 19, 2009 (2009-05-19) Length 48:12 Label Cut Narrative RecordsDirector 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.
ReleaseThe Brothers Bloom had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 9, 2008. 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. The first seven minutes of the film were posted to the online streaming video site, Hulu, on April 23, 2009.
Critical receptionReview aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes reports that 64% of critics have given the film a positive review, based on 124 reviews with an average rating of 6.1/10. The site's consensus stated that "Despite strong performances The Brothers Bloom ultimately does not fulfill its lofty ambitions." On Metacritic, the film was assigned a weighted average score of 55 out of 100 based on 26 reviews from mainstream critics.
Claudia Puig writing for USA Today stated that the film "has it all" with an "offbeat perspective" and "magical realism style that works exquisitely." She gave The Brothers Bloom a 3.5 out of 4 and wrote that it "is an often rapturous trot around the globe" but noted that the film "loses some steam in the final half hour." Robert Wilonsky thought that Johnson had "infused The Brothers Bloom with so much heart and beauty that one can and should easily overlook its discomfiting moments." Wilonsky suggested a second viewing of the film is "even more profound and touching".
Roger Ebert commented how the film's "acting is a delight" but it was "too smug and pleased with itself". He continued by complaining that the film had "too many encores and curtain calls" Robert Abele's review of The Brothers Bloom for the Los Angeles Times criticized Brody for over-moping and considered Ruffalo as "out of sorts" but thought Weisz's performance as "the best thing in the movie". Abele also thought Johnson used too many filmmaking quirks and when Johnson was not distracting the audience he had his actors doing it.
Box officeThe Brothers Bloom was originally to be released in the fall of 2009 but Summit pushed it forward to May. The film opened in four theaters in the U.S. in its first week, earning $90,400. 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. The Brothers Bloom finished its theatrical run after 12 weeks reaching at most 209 theaters during its sixth week. The film has grossed $3,531,756 domestically and $1,997,708 abroad for a total of $5,529,464. This placed it at number 167 for all films released in 2009. The film was released in the UK on the 4th of June 2010.
Home mediaThe DVD and Blu-ray Disc is available to rent on September 29, 2009 and to own on January 12, 2010.
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- ^ 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.
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- ^ "The 2009 Newport Beach Film Festival Awards". Newport Beach Film Fest. http://www.newportbeachfilmfest.com/awards09.html. Retrieved 2009-05-05.
- ^ "Watch the First 7 Minutes of The Brother's Bloom!". Movie Web. http://www.movieweb.com/news/NEroSyuttJClvt. Retrieved 2009-04-26.
- ^ "The Brothers Bloom reviews". Rotten Tomatoes. http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/brothers_bloom/. Retrieved 2010-04-22.
- ^ "Brothers Bloom, The reviews". Metacritic. http://www.metacritic.com/film/titles/brothersbloom?q=brothers%20bloom. Retrieved 2010-04-22.
- ^ Puig Claudia (May 17, 2009). "'Brothers Bloom' is a con story that doesn't cheat". USA Today. http://www.usatoday.com/life/movies/reviews/2009-05-14-bloom-review_N.htm. Retrieved 2010-04-22.
- ^ Wilonsky, Robert (May 13, 2009). "The Brothers Bloom Is No Joke". The Village Voice. http://www.villagevoice.com/2009-05-13/film/the-brothers-bloom-is-no-joke. Retrieved 2010-04-22.
- ^ Ebert, Roger (May 20, 2009). "The Brothers Bloom". Chicago Sun-Times. http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20090520/REVIEWS/905209987. Retrieved 2010-04-22.
- ^ Abele, Robert (May 15, 2009). "'The Brothers Bloom'". Los Angeles Times. http://articles.latimes.com/2009/may/15/entertainment/et-bloom15. Retrieved 2010-04-26.
- ^ "Launching Films - Film Distributors' Database". Launching Films. http://www.launchingfilms.com/releaseschedule/schedule.php?date=today&print=1&sort=date. Retrieved 2010-05-24.
- ^ "The Brothers Bloom - Box Office Data, Movie News, Cast Information". The Numbers. http://www.the-numbers.com/movies/2009/BRBLM.php. Retrieved 2010-04-01.