Review:  The Brothers Bloom (USA, 2008)

We really enjoyed this one!  It was a David Mamet-like story that twisted and turned.  (Even employing Ricky Jay to narrate.) The excellent directing by Rian Johnson (who also wrote it) translated the story well. God is in the details and there were lots of them.  The visuals, the timing, the emotional impact, the comic relief, the excitement and the unexpected made this a memorable film. The characters were sketched quickly in the beginning, the story moved forward and it jumped us into the action. But it’s not about the great story, the brilliant acting, the quirky characters or the stunning direction that made me want to write about this movie.  It was the underlying message, of course.

I believe the subtitle was, “The Unwritten Life,” a phrase that capture my writer’s imagination.  It’s about two brothers (or was it just one?)  Stephen and Bloom who were shuttled between foster homes because of their antics.  While still young, they hit on a con that worked for them. Stephen would write an elaborate story and Bloom would approach the “mark” and tell it.  The plans worked brilliantly, including a contingency scenario where they were assured of getting money.

Skip ahead twenty some years and it would appear they have done well for themselves.  But Bloom is troubled.  He’s been living these scenarios so long, he doesn’t know what the truth is anymore.  Bloom was aching to know what the Real Story was.

I love this theme of scripting your life.  Their mark now is Penelope, an eccentric millionairess who has spent most of her life alone.  Bloom asked her at one point if she was lonely. She told a beautiful story of how she had decided to make the most of her life and so had gone about learning everything she had a fancy to know.  Musical instruments, foreign languages, photography . . .  She was not, in any way, lonely. Stephen called her the “epileptic photographer,” which she quoted once, but looked perplexed in the midst of it.  Clearly, she was much more than that, largely because of the story she told herself.

Penelope said she never plans anything.  She had a capacity to flow with whatever was happening.  She paused to note her emotions in the moment and then she moved on. The brothers’ side-kick was the free-floating Bang Bang, a Japanese woman who just showed up and rarely spoke.  Bang Bang loved to blow things up.  When she was done with something, they said, things like Barbie dolls, she’d blow them up.  That’s certainly living in the moment!

The movie is a fantasy of sorts.  There was much left out of the details of the plans and schemes, but it didn’t matter.  It’s the story you tell yourself that counts.  The setting of the film, not in current times and spanning the globe, was irrelevant, too.  It added something to the fantasy, I suppose, making some of the weaker moments of believability fade into the background. It was also quite beautiful. But, in the end, it didn’t matter what scenario Stephen wrote, because whatever was happening in the moment was reality.  Even with squibbs.

I belief that life is unscripted. We are the co-creators of our lives. So what we say our life is, our life is.  It’s as simple and as difficult as all that.  Our thoughts, our perceptions of life create it.