Keep up-to-date on your favourite artists and movies, track gig and release dates, and join in the conversation.
SEARCH RESULTS FOR
The Golden Age of Disney Animation comes to an end with 'Bambi' - Daniel explores the classic in a new Ink & Paint!x
review, Motherless Brooklyn, Motherless, Brooklyn, film, movie, latest movies, new movie, movie ratings, current movie reviews, latest films, recent movies, current movies, movie critics, new movie reviews, latest movie reviews, latest movies out, the latest movies, review film, latest cinema releases, Australian reviews, cinema, cinema reviews, Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Willem Dafoe, Leslie Mann, Ethan Suplee, Alec Baldwin, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Josh Pais, Michael Kenneth Williams, Cherry Jones, Edward Norton, Crime, Drama film rating

MOTHERLESS BROOKLYN

★★★

A NEO-NOIR SET IN 1950s NEW YORK

THEATRICAL REVIEW
LATEST REVIEWS
By Joel Kalkopf
27th January 2020

Trench coats, cigarettes, fire escapes, jazz, shadowy figures - there's no mistaking that 'Motherless Brooklyn' is a good old-fashioned neo-noir. If there is a movie released this decade that uses the word "gumshoe" more regularly, I'll eat my fedora. Set in 1957 New York, Edward Norton's sophomore directorial feature follows Lionel Essrog (Edward Norton, 'Fight Club', 'American History X'), a private detective afflicted with Tourette's and OCD, as he tries to solve the murder of his mentor and friend, Frank (Bruce Willis, 'Die Hard'). As the case begins to unfold before him, Lionel unravels closely-guarded secrets that could not only determine the fate of New York, but maybe even put his own life at risk.

Norton has spoken frequently about how the novel of the same name, released 20 years ago by Jonathan Lethem, instantly captured his attention and how he's been obsessed with getting this to screen ever since. And it's easy to see why he was so drawn to Lionel as a protagonist. He's likeable but he's no great lead detective in the mould of Sam Spade or Sherlock Holmes; rather, he's simply a great asset to the team in the way that he remembers every conversation he's ever had or every setting he's ever been in. It is not that he is successful in his field despite his afflictions, but because of them. And herein lies this film's greatest challenge, and one it fails to overcome.

'MOTHERLESS BROOKLYN' TRAILER

Many actors have portrayed people with disabilities from all walks of life, and so many of them have won awards for it. Norton is equally as fantastic in this role, but the question has to be asked: what is the purpose? It's labelled as an affliction, nobody understands him because of his problems, but he seemingly gets by just fine, and suffers no real hurdles in the process. The people that he interrogates understand very quickly that he has a problem, and make no further comments. They do not treat him any differently than they would a regular detective, but perhaps even more importantly, it doesn't advance the plot or act as a clever character device - it's just there. That's not to say that he should be treated any differently, but then why create the illusion of an obstruction?

Similarly, it's confusing for an audience to simultaneously be told to laugh at something, and at the same time be told to sympathise with it. Norton tries to bring some comedy and lightheartedness to this otherwise brooding tale, with his manner of turning phrases and spinning people's words often entertaining - but then he also tries to highlight the struggles of his syndrome and the pain it can cause. Can you have your cake and eat it too? It makes the viewer uncomfortable and leaves them not knowing whether to laugh or not.

That being said, there is enough to like about this film. Thom Yorke continues to put his hand up as the go-to musician in the industry, with composer Daniel Pemberton's blues score hitting all the right notes. The aesthetic is everything reminiscent of the classic noir genre, and from the gin-soaked jazz clubs to the slums of Brooklyn, the old cliché that "the city plays as another character" rings true. When it comes to the acting, Norton parades that he barely paid anyone a cent, counting on people doing it for the love of the script - and he is rewarded for casting actors he trusts. Alec Baldwin ('Glengarry Glen Ross') brings the right amount of nuance as the film's antagonist Moses Randolph (loosely based off American tycoon Robert Moses), Willem Dafoe ('The Florida Project') is alluring, Gugu Mbatha-Raw ('Belle') adds much-needed warmth to the setting, and there are equally great cameos from Broadway star Cherry Jones, Leslie Mann ('Knocked Up', 'Blockers'), and Bobby Cannavale ('The Irishman'). The dynamic of the investigation team, once led by Frank (Willis), is great to watch, and in fact, the film could have done with more of it. After a great opening sequence, audiences are introduced the rest of the team, but it's a shame they are not really seen thereafter.

The aesthetic is everything reminiscent of the classic noir genre, and from the gin-soaked jazz clubs to the slums of Brooklyn, the old cliché that "the city plays as another character" rings true.

It's a difficult task to pace a noir for a modern audience, and you can feel the two and a half hour runtime. The story is interesting and the parallels to America in the present day are welcomed, but there isn't enough tonal balance to contrast all the shadowy moodiness. The plot is on the more convoluted side, and you'd imagine that with it being a story about following a trail of clues, 'Motherless Brooklyn' would reward repeat viewings - but I'm not sure I would optionally sit through all of it again. There is nothing inherently wrong with this film, bar some odd edits and framing choices, and Norton tackles the material fairly well, creating a great tribute to the noir era of filmmaking. It sometimes treads the line of parody rather than homage, but for anyone in the mood for crime mystery in the vein of 'Chinatown' or 'L.A. Confidential', this will absolutely hit the spot.

FAST FACTS
RELEASE DATE: 27/02/2020
CAST: Bruce Willis
Edward Norton
Willem Dafoe
Leslie Mann
Ethan Suplee
Alec Baldwin
Gugu Mbatha-Raw
Josh Pais
Michael Kenneth Williams
Cherry Jones
DIRECTOR: Edward Norton
TOP-RATED REVIEWS
The Violin Player - Sex and strings
TRENDINGTHE VIOLIN PLAYERSex and strings
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World - Not here to make money and stuff
TRENDINGSCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLDNot here to make money and stuff
23 Walks - A story of dogs, walks and romance later in life
TRENDING23 WALKSA story of dogs, walks and romance later in life
xXx: Return Of Xander Cage - The good, the bad and the ugly
TRENDINGxXx: RETURN OF XANDER CAGEThe good, the bad and the ugly
Romantic Road - Falling in love with India, the Rolls Royce and each other
TRENDINGROMANTIC ROADFalling in love with India, the Rolls Royce and each other
The Land Before Time - 30th anniversary of a breathtaking animated masterpiece
TRENDINGTHE LAND BEFORE TIME30th anniversary of a breathtaking animated masterpiece
God of the Piano - A tale that tickles the ivories
TRENDINGGOD OF THE PIANOA tale that tickles the ivories
Corpus Christi - Dreams, deceit and salvation
TRENDINGCORPUS CHRISTIDreams, deceit and salvation
Burning - One of the best films of the decade
TRENDINGBURNINGOne of the best films of the decade
Over the Limit - A real-life psychological thriller
TRENDINGOVER THE LIMITA real-life psychological thriller
School of Seduction - Husband hunting in Russia
TRENDINGSCHOOL OF SEDUCTIONHusband hunting in Russia
Waterloo - An epic recreation of the legendary battle
TRENDINGWATERLOOAn epic recreation of the legendary battle
Never Rarely Sometimes Always - The film every teenager needs to see
TRENDINGNEVER RARELY SOMETIMES ALWAYSThe film every teenager needs to see
Inseparable Bros - A heartwarming tale about disability and the power of friendship
TRENDINGINSEPARABLE BROSA heartwarming tale about disability and the power of friendship
Happy Ending - An extra-wrinkly sex comedy
TRENDINGHAPPY ENDINGAn extra-wrinkly sex comedy
Revisiting 'Dark City' 20 years later - The most underrated and influential sci-fi film ever?
TRENDINGREVISITING 'DARK CITY' 20 YEARS LATERThe most underrated and influential sci-fi film ever?
Buffy - A 20th anniversary love letter
TRENDINGBUFFYA 20th anniversary love letter
Inseparable Bros - A heartwarming tale about disability and the power of friendship
TRENDINGINSEPARABLE BROSA heartwarming tale about disability and the power of friendship
Litigante - An authentic and tender character piece
TRENDINGLITIGANTEAn authentic and tender character piece
23 Walks - A story of dogs, walks and romance later in life
TRENDING23 WALKSA story of dogs, walks and romance later in life
© 2011 - 2020 midnightproductions
All rights reserved

Support SWITCH | Disclaimer | Contact Us