Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Motherless Brooklyn: Movie Review

Classic film noir without an intriguing story.

Writer, director and producer Edward Norton has assembled a large cast of prominent actors, all very adept at comedy, and gave very few of them anything interesting to do. Motherless Brooklyn is a classic film noir played out on the Tourette's spectrum – and that's the comedy. Norton plays Lionel Essrog, a private investigator suffering from multiple vocal and physical tics often erupting at awkward moments, and again – that's where the comedy is. With this cast and premise, the movie was ripe for a dark comedy take on a film noir, but Norton chose a less comfortable, less interesting route. 2019

Directed by: Edward Norton

Screenplay by: Edward Norton
Based on the novel by Jonathan Lethem

Starring: Edward Morton, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Alec Baldwin and Bobby Cannavale

Lionel, not unlike those diagnosed with Tourette syndrome, has a particular knack for remembering names, places and other minute details so he takes it upon himself to solve the murder of his mentor. A group of four of them worked for Frank in a dark and drab private investigators office, doubling as a car service to keep vague disreputable items off the books. But now Frank's dead, his widow (Leslie Mann) owns the business and it's just Norton, Bobby Cannavale, Ethan Supplee and Dallas Roberts fending for themselves. Cannavale was the only one given anything to do, in an a) obvious and b) awful, plot line.

Lionel is out piecing together clues that Frank left behind that lead him to an all-black jazz nightclub in Harlem, two women (Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Cherry Jones) and an out-spoken man (Willem Dafoe) leading the fight against housing inequality, and shady politicians doing stuff that shady politicians do all in the name of capitalism. Those politicians include Josh Pais as a weaselly corrupt commissioner in the mayor's office and Alec Baldwin as a blatantly corrupt commissioner in the mayor's office. For most of the movie, it looked like that fight against the haves and the have-nots were going to lead to a compelling story and conclusion. Unfortunately, like all film noir stories, “Motherless Brooklyn” is ultimately about a girl, and nothing more.