SAVFF REVIEW — “Motherless Brooklyn”
Eddy did it!
Motherless Brooklyn is written and directed by Edward Norton and stars Norton, Bruce Willis, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Bobby Cannavale, Cherry Jones, Alec Baldwin, and Willem Dafoe. It tells the story of Lionel Essrog, who is a lonely private detective who doesn’t let Tourette’s syndrome stand in the way of his job. Gifted with a few clues and an obsessive mind, Lionel sets out to solve the murder of Frank Minna — his mentor and only friend. Next in our series of SCAD Savannah Film Festival is Edward Norton’s baby! Motherless Brooklyn is a noir from head to toe, featuring fantastic performances, an intriguing story, and is brimming with passion from Edward Norton.
Edward Norton is really throwing everything at the wall here and for the most part, everything sticks. Norton does a really great job directing here and although this story is far-reaching and very large in scope, he is able to deliver a product that is personal and engaging. This really feels like a huge love letter to classic noirs and seeing one this pure to the genre on the big screen was a delight. He follows many of the iconic tropes of the medium, but will often present them in new or interesting ways. While this isn’t as radical of a take on the noir as some may suggest, he is able to do some really interesting things with it. His script is also excellent, with some really rich and meaty dialogue for these actors to chew on. While it can get a tad bit predictable, it’s always engaging and entertaining to watch. I’d really love to see Norton write and direct more because this was a delight.
The cast all does an incredible job. Edward Norton delivers yet another dynamic and engaging performance. He’s funny, sympathetic, and nuanced all in one swing. While playing a character with Tourettes could be a bit problematic, it’s very tastefully done and Norton does a wonderful job portraying it accurately. Bruce Willis delivers a very solid performance here and it’s just so nice to see him try in a movie again. Willem Dafoe is fantastic as always and continues to be one of, if not the best working actor currently. Gugu Mbatha-Raw also gives a fantastic performance and I would love to see more of her. Bobby Cannavale is also always nice to see on screen and a great addition to the cast. All in all, the entire cast gives it their all and Norton is abe to get wonderful performances out of all of them.
On a technical level, Motherless Brooklyn leaves a bit to be desired. That’s not to say anything is done poorly here, it’s just not as true to the noir genre as the rest of the film is. The cinematography is well done, but there’s little style or passion behind it. For a film so true to the noir, most of the shots are clear and take place in the daytime. That’s not to say every single shot needs to be drenched in heavy light and shadows, but for a film that holds so true to the genre, I was honestly surprised the cinematography didn’t keep up with that tradition. Although it doesn’t ruin the film, it was a bit disappointing. That being said, Motherless Brooklyn was still a delight to watch. 4.5/5