Writer-director Rian Johnson's movies—first Brick in 2006, now The Brothers Bloom—are clever and soulful confabulations. The filmmaker, whose screenplays read like novels, serves up movies that could play like parodies: Brick was his gumshoe-in-tennis-shoes noir about a slang-spouting baby Bogart on the hunt for his lady friend's killer. Now comes The Brothers Bloom, a love story—two, actually—that flirts with the con-man movie clichés with which Johnson ultimately can't be bothered. Which is just as well. The genre's big game is played out, after all: In a confidence film, everyone is exactly who they say they are, even when they insist they're not who you think they are, or something—a-ha! Johnson dispenses with that phony device up front; he doesn't have an endgame gotcha up his sleeve and isn't interested in making a puzzle to be solved. Stephen (Mark Ruffalo) and Bloom (Adrien Brody) are, from first scene to last shot, precisely who we think they are: lonely little fabulists who tell stories to find the joy that eludes them in "the real world." When they're boys, Stephen spins his profitable fictions to find his brother the perfect girl; as adults, he does it to land Bloom the love of his life, Penelope (Rachel Weisz), a Jersey heiress so wealthy and bored that she collects hobbies. Clearly Penelope's in need of an adventure, which Johnson provides, in a movie where affectation gives way to affection till it steals, well, only your heart.
Weisz is nobody's brother.
Opens at Meridian and Lincoln Square, Fri., May 22. Rated PG-13. 120 minutes.