Here’s a question: if a talented upstart so perfectly apes the style of an established icon, should we be upset or should we sit back and enjoy the ride? We bring this up because after watching the first seven minutes of Rian Johnson’s con-man movie, The Brothers Bloom (available right now over at Hulu), we’re convinced that Mr. Johnson has made the best Wes Anderson movie Wes Anderson never made … and that doesn’t really bother us.
If you don’t know the backstory about The Brothers Bloom, allow us to quickly fill you in: The follow-up to Mr. Johnson’s widely acclaimed debut feature, Brick, premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival last September to mixed reviews. A December release was planned so that co-star Rachel Weisz would be in position to make another run at Supporting Actress glory (Ms. Weisz won the same award for 2005’s The Constant Gardner). But that campaign never came to pass, as distributor Summit Entertainment moved the film back into January, and then all the way to May, where it will now open in limited release on May 15, before going wider on May 29, as a counterprogramming choice against Pixar’s Up.
The long and winding road for The Brothers Bloom had dulled our expectations just a bit (and so had some of the negative reviews—Jeffrey Wells, harsh!), but after watching the first seven minutes and hearing Mr. Johnson describe it as a “big, fun, globetrotting con man movie,” we’re kinda sold all over again. It’s clear that in the interim between Brick and The Brothers Bloom, Mr. Johnson took more than a few courses at the Wes Anderson School of Quirk, but why is that such a bad thing? It reminds us of the band Muse. The British trio has basically released four albums worth of outtakes from Bends/OK Computer-era Radiohead, but that’s fine, since we love Bends-era Radiohead. So what if an artist steals ideas and structures from another, as long as they’re making something worthwhile? The devil is in the details.
It might seem like a counterintuitive idea, and it certainly tows a thin line—push to far to the right and you end up with homage; too far to the left and it becomes parody—but in the first seven minutes of The Brothers Bloom, Mr. Johnson hits the notes perfectly. He’s doing “Wes Anderson” (and also some Paul Thomas Anderson—see: the presence of Magnolia narrator Ricky Jay tasked to the same job here), but it still feels exciting. Whether he gets that out of the rest of his movie obviously remains to be seen, but we’ll be there to find out on May 15. It’s not like we wanted to see Angels and Demons anyway.
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