Didn’t see this one coming. It’s not that the material is any kind of shocker; it’s just that the movie was nowhere on my radar.
After a nearly twenty year absence, Edward Norton makes his sophomore directorial effort with Motherless Brooklyn, based on a crime novel by Jonathan Lethem (A Scanner Darkly). Set in 1950 New York City, it follows Lionel Essrog (Norton), a private detective who tries to solve a case involving his friend and mentor Frank Minna (Bruce Willis). Making the role even more intriguing for Norton is that Essrog has Tourette’s Syndrome, which allows him to double-down on showy (and at times comical) ticks.
Lensed by cinematographer Dick Pope (a favorite of acclaimed British realist Mike Leigh who also shot Norton’s The Illusionist), Motherless Brooklyn boasts an impressive cast — including Alec Baldwin, Willem Dafoe, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Michael Kenneth Williams, Leslie Mann, Cherry Jones, and Bobby Cannavale — whoe were no doubt attracted to working with the actor-savvy Norton.
The mystery noir is markedly different than Norton’s writer/director debut in 2000, the underrated religious-themed romcom Keeping The Faith, which co-starred Ben Stiller and Jenna Elfman. Despite the genre shift, my love and admiration for Keeping The Faith has me anticipating what Norton has in store here (even if the Tourette’s element is the one bit in the trailer where like the movie feels like it — and Norton — might be trying too hard).
From Warner Bros., the noir studio of record in that genre’s initial heyday (as well as throughout Hollywood history), Motherless Brooklyn opens this fall on November 1, 2019.
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