Brotherly Whimsy 

click to enlarge BrothersBloom.jpg
The Brothers Bloom
Directed by Rian Johnson

The Brothers Bloom may turn out to be 2009's biggest disappointment, which will be a testament to both its ambitions and its shortcomings. Rian Johnson's tale of grifter siblings with opposing temperaments (Mark Ruffalo and Adrien Brody) toured the festival circuit last fall, but its release has been delayed until the start of summer blockbuster season. It would be a shame if audiences looking for air-conditioned diversions were to pass on Johnson's loopy picture; and a hoot if they should stumble into it mistakenly.

Brick (2006), Johnson's critically lauded debut, reimagined Dashiell Hammett and Nicholas Ray for the next generation, using the writer-director's actual hometown for its bad-vibes exurban SoCal setting (eat your heart out, Veronica Mars). It is impressive, then, just how far Johnson has strayed from the cynical noir style that made him a success. While Brick was hard like its title, Brothers Bloom is sentimental, messy and digressive — more of a novel than a film. The whimsical, literary tableaux will draw inevitable comparisons to Wes Anderson, but Johnson has a signature way with a sight gag, as demonstrated when Rachel Weisz, playing a lonely heiress mark, performs kickflips, juggles chainsaws and raps.

Ruffalo and Brody have great brotherly chemistry. Add to that a melancholic Weisz (inverting The Lady Eve's gender dynamics) and Brothers Bloom is surprisingly affecting. But too often, Johnson disrupts the rhythm of his storytelling with gimmickry, alerting you to the confidence game just as you're about to get suckered.

Opens May 15

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