“Motherless Brooklyn” is written, directed by, and starring Edward Norton as a private detective with Tourette’s Syndrome in 1950’s New York. When his mentor is killed, he goes in search for answers and the result was a great noir crime-drama with charming elements of mystery. The performances were fantastic across the table headlined by Edward Norton. With the supporting cast led by a charged performance from Gugu Mbatha-Raw all pouring themselves into their characters, and more so the time-period.
Surrounding the appealing characters is amazing production-design and film-techniques which create that dated atmosphere ripe for a whodunit mystery. The musical score complements the backdrop seamlessly and captures the perfect mood as the story works through the layers. Scenes are routinely back-dropped with subtle but appeal visuals and crisp scoring to result in a nostalgic vibe fans of this genre can enjoy. It isn’t a flashy film but it’s a polished one. And the intention of Norton’s direction, as well as what tone he wanted to capture never lost focus making the film easily immersive.
I have a feeling the biggest drawback to this movie with many will be the length. It has the stylistic approach to appeal to mass audiences despite the more niche plot-line and setting. However, the beefy run-time, one that does nicely pace itself as it peels back the layers of mystery like the layers an onion, is a slow-burn that won’t appeal to all. Fans of the genre, who enjoy escaping into a methodical progression with twists and miss direction the length will be welcomed. For those wanting to simply dip into the genre for a murder mystery, may find it mildly fatiguing with pacing issues in places.
I enjoyed the attention to detail and found it compelling to watch both the characters and the story-line evolve. It kept me engaged and it had me thinking. Norton’s direction was great, his performance was amazing as well. But I think it was his writing that shined over everything else he did for this film. The dialogue was tight. It maintained a focus on story and character development. Added with a smart, witty comedic lining that I felt balanced the dramatic undertones. The timing to the sense-of-humor was perfect which resulted in appealing emotional swings.
This one may not appeal to all audiences, but I recommend checking it out. Even if you may think you aren’t a huge fan of this genre, or may see the runt-time as daunting. I would still say give it a chance because the quality is present on many levels and it could easy lure you into the story, the characters, and the era it’s set in.