In his second feature film MOTHERLESS BROOKLYN Director and actor Edward Norton follows in the footsteps of Roman Polanski’s “Chinatown” and allows himself a deep bow to the greats of film noir. But he cannot (yet) show his own handwriting. We reveal more about this in our review.
Laura (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) and Lionel (Edward Norton) get closer…
The plot summary
Lionel Essrog (Edward Norton) is a lonely private detective with Tourette syndrome. He follows a risky plan when he tries to solve the murder of his mentor and only friend Frank Minna (Bruce Willis). With nothing more than a few clues but fueled by his urgent, obsessive mind, Lionel uncovers closely guarded secrets that are crucial to the fate and balance of New York. The mysterious murder sweeps him into gin-fueled jazz clubs in Harlem, the unforgiving slums of Brooklyn, and finally the gilded halls of New York’s powerful. To honor his friend, Lionel takes on the fight against gangsters, corruption and the most dangerous man in town – and to protect the woman who could be his own salvation.
Motherless Brooklyn Movie Meaning & ending
Edward Norton (“Birdman or (The Unexpected Power of Ignorance)”) is known in his job as an actor for messing with the directors and screenwriters responsible for his projects without being asked. It was only a matter of time before the three-time Oscar-nominated superstar took a seat in the director’s chair again after his directorial debut “Belief is Everything!” from 2000, which was screened behind closed doors, and now with “Motherless Brooklyn”. would bring a script he had written himself to the big screen for the first time. Norton reportedly spent over five years writing the script; “Motherless Brooklyn” is originally based on the bestseller of the same name by novelist Jonathan Lethem. The years of work, along with some striking changes compared to the original book, convinced the cast, which Norton had brought together himself, so much that a large part of the ensemble even waived their fee, which made the project overall more cost-effective and therefore less risky for large film studios. This tactic makes sense because, apart from its spectacular Hollywood all-star cast, “Motherless Brooklyn” is not a film project that is so easy to bring to the masses (and therefore economically worthwhile), but rather similar to Martin Scorsese’s “ The Irishman ,” which is exclusively appears on the streaming service Netflix because no major film company could be found to market it, a hobby project with which Norton consolidates his status as a director, but still lacks his own signature out of a lot of love for preventing the film noir genre.
Who murdered Frank Minna (Bruce Willis)?
Probably the most noticeable change compared to the book: While the story was originally set in 1999, Norton has the screen events all take place in 1957. According to Norton’s own statements, the late 1950s were a much more believable place for a film noir, meaning that the auteur filmmaker clearly subordinated the content to the form from the start. Although Norton pushes the accelerator nicely at the beginning to create a meaty, almost thriller-like entry into the story (complete with a chase and shootout, which could potentially raise false expectations of what “Motherless Brooklyn” actually presents in the following two hours). ), in which the question of Frank’s murderer, which from then on acts as a plot motor, is established, the focus is then on completely different things. Edward Norton hits the brakes dramatically; And “Motherless Brooklyn” develops its appeal less from Lionel’s investigations than from how Norton creates an emotional kaleidoscope of Brooklyn with his film. Although it only emerges late in the film that Brooklyn used to be Lionel’s nickname (which subsequently makes the character drama part in “Motherless Brooklyn” wonderfully ambiguous), the title of the work also characterizes the film itself. As is often the case with pop culture works have location-related titles, the corresponding location becomes one of the main characters. On his journey through the New York City district, Lionel gives us deep insights into the realities of life in the predominantly poor districts, which Norton contrasts with the well-off worlds of political decision-makers. Lionel desperately searches for Frank’s murderer between the outdated power holders and the socially disadvantaged citizens.
Lionel walks the streets of Brooklyn, depressed by the death of his friend. “Motherless Brooklyn” often allows many, many minutes to pass in which the private detective pursues suspects to film noir music dominated by brass (once again brilliantly capturing the flair of the film in music: “Codename UNCLE” composer Daniel Pemberton). This is undoubtedly very atmospheric (camera: Dick Pope, “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind” ). The protagonist’s thoughts, which are obligatory off-screen, always follow suit, even though Norton breaks away from the image of the cool observer and analyst when drawing his broken hero by depicting him, true to the original, with an impulse control disorder, similar to Tourette’s syndrome. provides. Edward Norton embodies the figure of the detective who is trapped in his habits and equally self-sacrificing to solve his case, as strong as usual and completely free of false sentimentality. He even spent time with real Tourette sufferers to prepare for his demanding role. The makers also allow for touches of humor in view of the tics, which are sometimes staged to make you smile, and Lionel never makes a secret of their bizarreness. The intimate, emotional counterbalance to this are quiet, almost amorous moments between him and the beautiful (if at times suspicious) Laura (Gugu Mbatha-Raw). In one of the most touching scenes, Lionel, who always appears confident and quick-witted despite the tragic loss, describes how he has never had closer contact with a woman. There would have been more of moments like this in “Motherless Brooklyn” that give the main character a profile outside of his job.
In general, in his first film noir, Edward Norton relies so much on the individual set pieces of the genre that he loses sight of the individual strengths of his story. So you often have the feeling that some plot lines are only in the film because that’s just what a story in this genre should do; Even if there isn’t time in the already generous running time of 144 minutes to devote equal attention to all of them. Other scenes – such as all the moments in a dim jazz club or a visually intoxicating (night) dream sequence that illustrates Lionel’s ghost, which is visually intoxicating but is never revisited later – have their right to exist as “mood pieces” that underline the atmosphere, but they also could clearly tolerated half of the time spent on them. This makes “Motherless Brooklyn” equal parts too short and too long. Edward Norton opens a portrait of a city peppered with personal, political, social, economic and even architectural themes, the narrative cosmos of which would provide the basis for an entire series. For a single film, however, the story seems almost overloaded, while the really important aspects cannot fully develop. Ultimately, “Motherless Brooklyn” is primarily a number revue with excellent actors and actresses, including Alec Baldwin (“Mission: Impossible – Fallout”) about scene stealer Willem Dafoe (“The lighthouse”) to Bruce Willis (“Death Wish”) In a small, but very ambitious performance compared to his last acting roles, everyone has their opportunity to shine. The problem here is not the form, but the content.
Conclusion: Edward Norton mixes the common ingredients of a film noir and creates his own. You can see in “Motherless Brooklyn” that he understands and loves the genre. However, his second feature film cannot yet boast the narrative and directorial finesse of great film noir entries. The two and a half hour detective drama is both too long and too short for that.
“Motherless Brooklyn” can be seen in selected USA cinemas from December 12th.