A private detective with Tourette's syndrome
pursues the lead that got his mentor killed.
Motherless Brooklyn (2019)
Written and Directed by Edward Norton
Starring Edward Norton, Bruce Willis, Gugu Mbatha-Raw,
Alec Baldwin, Willem Dafoe, Bobby Cannavale, Ethan Suplee, Michael Kenneth Williams, Dallas Roberts, Leslie Mann
Based on the novel by Jonathan Lethem
Motherless Brooklyn is very much a slow burn, and it never really feels like the stakes are all that high. But the performances are fantastic, the story is engaging for the most part, and the atmosphere is a flawless recreation of 1950's New York City. This was Edward Norton's baby, and he pulled it off, much to my surprise. He's famous for his control issues, so when I saw the trailer for a movie he was writing, directing, and starring in, I figured it would tank because he needed to be in control of literally everything. But the end result is a subtle film noir with layered characters and a gorgeous score.
Norton plays Lionel Essrog, a lonely private eye who works for stand-up guy Frank Minna (Willis). Lionel has Tourette's, and it's kept him from getting ahead in life. Frank is the only friend he's ever had, so when Frank is gunned down after trying to make a deal with some less than reputable characters, Lionel takes it upon himself to solve the case. He gets led down a rabbit hole of city planning, family squabbles, and the real power behind New York City. The film is two and a half hours long, so be prepared for a slow march to the finish line. And Norton really drags it out too. But the characters are so engaging and the performances are just to die for. You get sucked in.
Motherless Brooklyn is an underrated gem from last year that shows off a side of 50's NYC that's not often seen. We forget that people lived in that decade. Not just figures or businessmen, but real people with lives and jobs and children. This movie is the film noir that never was, the one that shines a spotlight on the individuals who populated the city of yesteryear. Props to Norton for pulling that off.