Keep Pullin’ on that Thread
Taking place in the dreary 1950’s New York City, “Motherless Brooklyn” follows Lionel Essrog (Edward Norton), a young man suffering from Tourette syndrome. Working for Frank Minna (Bruce Willis) as a private investigator, his World is turned upside-down when the man who’s been looking after him for so many years is murdered. Caught-up in the case Frank was on, Lionel is determined to get to the bottom of why he was killed and what exactly he found. His investigation leads him right to the Borough Authority and the unofficial King of New York, Moses Randolph (Alec Baldwin). As he continues untangling the web, he begins falling for a gorgeous woman named Laura Rose (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) who finds herself right in the middle of the biggest case Lionel’s ever been on. He battles his affliction, but proves that it may be just as much as a gift as it is a curse. A story of deception, greed, and fraud; the rest of the film follows Lionel’s torrential pursuit for the truth and his demand for justice for his friend.
Period films usually find their way into cinemas a few times a year, but the decent, effective ones are few and far between. “Motherless Brooklyn” revolves around a character who is dealing with Tourette’s. Played by Norton, his affliction is seems 100% authentic and by no means fake. It also is used as a way to tell the story, not as just a meaningless plot point. I found it to be extremely effective and as excellent portrayal for those who suffer from the syndrome in life. While the main focus is on Norton, the film boasts an impressive cast including the likes of: Willis, Mbatha-Raw, Baldwin, Willem Dafoe, Bobby Cannavale, Leslie Mann, Ethan Suplee, Michael Kenneth Williams, Cherry Jones, Dallas Roberts, Josh Pais, and many more. Mbatha-Raw continues to prove an elite talent, Dafoe is powerful and convincing (thought miscast due to age), and Baldwin is clearly-channeling his SNL Trump persona.
Edward Norton stars as the lead character Lionel, but he also wrote (from an earlier novel) and directed the film. “Motherless Brooklyn” has been a passion project for the filmmaker and it clearly shows. The film should also be applauded for its gorgeous set design. “Motherless Brooklyn” beautifully-captures the look and feel of 1950 New York City expertly, giving the film an authentic feeling that serves to elevate the film. However, the film has its fair share of struggles as well. The central story does well enough to keep you guessing, but some of the twists are a bit too predictable. A second issue I had with the film is its pacing. At 144 minutes, the film could have greatly benefited having various sequences cut and tightening up the overall finished product.
At the end of the day, “Motherless Brooklyn” ends up as an average film, elevated by its cinematic beauty and the performances of a few of its stars. By no means a masterpiece, but there are far worse films at the box office currently; and none of them have the pleasure of calling themselves a daring work of art like “Motherless Brooklyn” certainly can boast.
MOTHERLESS BROOKLYN is rated R for language throughout including some sexual references, brief drug use, and violence, in theaters NOVEMBER 1ST!