When I heard that Rian Johnson was going to direct Star Wars: Episode VIII I was beyond geeked. I have adored every one of his films from his first, the high school film noir Brick, to his latest, the clever and oh so stylish time travel tale Looper. But my far and away favorite is his second film, The Brothers Bloom. This ties with Jaan-e-Mann as my absolute favorite film ever, because like with Jaan-e-Mann it was almost unsettling how much it felt like a filmmaker had climbed inside my head and made a movie just for me.
Now, my favorite book of all time hands down is Ulysses, following the wanderings of a man named Bloom and a younger fellow named Stephen. I don’t recall ever seeing a trailer for this movie or anything; I freely admit I grabbed it without even reading the description based on title alone. (I also hadn’t seen Brick yet; I saw that after watching this one a dozen times).
First off, it’s a gorgeous film. Beautiful settings, marvelous clothes, and all the colors just pop. I don’t really get the gritty, washed-out color aesthetic some filmmakers seem to love these days. Film is a visual medium; show me something I want to look at! Plus the camerawork is part of the storytelling. And is it weird to praise a film’s editing? There is a time jump in the last third of the movie that is executed so smoothly I feel like I have to.
It kicks off with a poem giving us the back story of our two main characters, the brothers Stephen and Bloom, and the poem is read by Ricky Jay. It is awesome.
It’s about two con men who base their cons on great works of literature, with many delicious details like little cookies for fans of those sorts of books.
Rinko Kikuchi was in this before she was in Pacific Rim, and she steals every scene she’s in. That’s no easy task opposite the likes of Adrien Brody, Mark Ruffalo and Robbie Coltraine. Loved her character. She doesn’t speak, but she doesn’t need to. Her face is so expressive words would be redundant.
But the biggest reason I love this film and watch it over and over again is Rachel Weisz. Her character is so fabulous. She collects hobbies, really cool ones (I do this, albeit with less success). She teaches herself languages from books (ditto). She is a shut-in, but not intentionally (um? Yeah, I don’t get out much). As a child she was misdiagnosed with being allergic to everything, and by the time she discovered the truth her mother was ill and needed intense home care. Because of this the story opens with her having been kept apart from the world for her entire life but being alone now she is so ready to change that.
She’s socially awkward, but she’s not shy. How often do you see that in a character? And Weisz plays her so well. You can see her grow in confidence throughout the film, it’s a beautiful thing. Her character is brought into the story because Bloom thinks Stephen needs love in his life, but she’s never just a love interest. And while the film technically doesn’t pass the Bechdel test, that’s largely because Kikuchi’s character doesn’t speak. The two women bond, showing each other their separate passions (hobbies like making pinhole cameras on one side, explosives on the other).
I love this movie with all my heart, and I can’t wait to see what Rian Johnson brings to Star Wars. Is it nearly Christmas?