After premiering at the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival, Rian Johnson's The Brothers Bloom got bounced around like the red-headed stepchild on Summit's slate before landing a haphazard 200-screen release earlier this summer. Now, in what would appear to be an effort to maintain consistency between the difficulty of seeing it on a big screen and watching on your small screen, the crime caper's been made available for rental only since September, until making its retail bow in January...
...and that's a shame, because the presentation -- at least on Blu-ray -- looks and sounds as rich as it ever did theatrically, the extras are plentiful, and the film itself stands as a clever, funny and warm-hearted take on the con man genre, one more often known for its especially detached sense of cool above any sense of character.
And no, I'm not just saying all of this because Johnson name-checks yours truly a couple of times on the commentary. Honest.
The feature is divided into 16 chapters, with English and Spanish audio language tracks, and English and Spanish subtitles available for it and most every feature on the disc (even the optional commentaries!). The supplements include: "From Sketch to Celluloid," a three-part comparison of Johnson's hand-drawn sketches against the eventual storyboards against the finished film; "In Bloom," a loosely assembled fly-on-the-wall type of behind-the-scenes featurette that proves infinitely more engaging than your usual EPK fodder; deleted scenes that were wisely excised for the most part (Johnson's commentary on these offers some insight into what it means for a filmmaker to kill their darlings in order to better serve an already dense story); and an image gallery featuring production sketches and what-not that unfortunately plays itself instead of letting the viewer examine each piece at their own speed. What the disc does not have are any theatrical trailers or a poster gallery that would've demonstrated the difference between the studio's explosion-laden marketing campaign and the more personalized efforts that Johnson and his countless cousins did on their own to better suit the film (though their work does serve as the basis for the menus here).
Oh, and then we have the feature-length commentary by writer-director Johnson and producer Ram Bergman. The latter rarely pipes up, and only then to serve as sarcasm enabler for the fairly self-effacing Johnson, whose ramblings tend to volley between being genuinely informative as to the country-hopping nature of the shoot and several touches of thematic symbolism that would probably go unnoticed if left unmentioned, to having drier-than-deadpan dead spots. Avoiding said spots was why Johnson mentioned early on his request for questions from his Twitter followers (including yours truly), but once he gets on a roll, he doesn't really fall back on those until the end credits... at which point he mutters my name for something like a fourth time and then says that I have no life. So those of you worried about any bias I might feel towards the film because of this need not worry; I honestly feel that I can review stupid Rian's stupid movie on stupid awesome Blu-ray with no conflict of interest whatsoever.
But speaking of stupid, let's come back to the film's release strategy. Will re-opening this window between rental and retail really help out the struggling likes of Blockbuster, especially considering that the film is just as available on iTunes and Netflix and on-demand? Won't putting such a delay on retail hurt sales, between missing out on the holiday season (during which fans of the film can spread it around with greater ease) and encouraging those who don't want to wait to seek out perfectly pirated rips of the DVD? Die-hards have already 'purchased' the film through Blockbuster by merely keeping their copy and being charged the full amount -- isn't that one less copy to be rented by someone who didn't get to see the film in its sporadic release earlier this year?
If Summit is relying on people to pay to rent it, and then pay to buy it because they liked it so much, I fail to see how a four-month delay will boost the film's profile and encourage consumers to spend more on it than they would any other movie. Maybe there are numbers upon numbers out there that justify this business strategy, but I can't help but think that Summit might've been better off pulling this on something like Twilight -- where they're guaranteed an audience on the first day it's available in any form -- than minimizing the access that a film like this needs. Maybe this is all just part of a con too big for me to understand, but I can attest to this much: it's a fine disc for a fine movie, at any rate, on any date.