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Movie Review: "Motherless Brooklyn" by Edward Norton

Updated on February 20, 2020

Growing up in a small town is an experience hard to rate. It is safe, you can play in the street, walk to school and all the places are near. It also has its limitations, though. The one I felt the most was this: My little town does not have a regular cinema.

I have a few childhood memories at the cinema. Almost all of the chances to watch a movie out of home used to be during winter holidays, where the local theatre would show some (Mostly Disney animation) which had been released months before in the "civilized world". I enjoyed those times greatly. So, it is no surprise that when I moved out of town to go to university, cinema became one of my favorite sources of entertainment.

I have spent the past few months, drowning in projects, exams, deadlines, but I have recently discovered that cinema has a soothing effect over my nerves.
One Saturday afternoon, sick of studying and dying for a change of air, I decided to get myself outside and watch a movie. Before watching a film or reading a book I always do some research about it. But that time my need for something that helped me to stay away from my desk was quite potent, so I choose the first movie that seemed remotely interesting, and I went to see it without knowing anything but the title. That is how I came upon "Motherless Brooklyn"

Edward Norton brings us the story of Lionel Essrog, who works in a detective agency. Formerly rescued from an orphanage by his current boss, Frank Minna, Lionel suffers from Tourette syndrome. This often alienates him from other people, but his prodigious memory and intelligence make him a talented detective.

At the beginning of the film, Frank asks Lionel and Gilbert, another employee of the agency, to stay around and keep an eye on his house, where he is having a meeting. Lionel knows he is working in a secret case, and he suspects that his boss intends to deal with some powerful people. And it turns out to be true: Despite his precautions, Frank is murdered by his mysterious clients.

The death of his friend will encourage Lionel to begin a personal investigation on the subject. To get to the men who kill Frank, first, he must discover what was it that his former boss has found out. A jazz club in Harlem and a woman with a blue coat being his only clues, our protagonist will fight to understand the reasons behind the crime.

His attempts to make justice will take Lionel to an unexpected place, push him in a game of corruption and power, and leave in his hands the chance to expose some dark secrets of a well-known political figure of New York City.

Why should you be watching it?

It may be that in my mental state at the time of watching it, any kind of entertainment was as sweet as honey, but I enjoyed this movie more than I thought I would.

I sympathized with Lionel from the first few minutes. What I have seen from Tourette syndrome in other media always seems to be exaggerated and more oriented towards comedy and comedy alone. And as one not always know someone who lives with this condition, sometimes is difficult to discern if what we are seeing is a true characterization or just a bunch of stereotypes thrown together. I am no expert in Tourette syndrome, but Edward Norton's character looked and sounded believable to me. Lionel is very smart and structured, but the movie also allowed us to see an endearing and funny side of him, without making it look like his condition was a joke.

Apart from Norton, we also have an wonderful cast: Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Laura, a lawyer and activist, Alec Baldwin as ambitious politician Moses Randolph, and Bruce Willis as Frank Minna, detective and best friend of the protagonist. And of course, there is also the addition of Willem Defoe, playing a character with a surprising past.

New York's history was something I did not know about, so it was interesting, and the power play that surrounded it was also good to watch. It is a dilemma for the public because even though the procedures used to "improve" the city were morally questionable, at the same time, we also know that without them New York would not be what it is today.

The relationship between Laura and Lionel is sweet. Can we call it a love story? I am not sure, but I like to think about it as such. In the few scenes they share, I saw some real understanding between them. They are two characters that are judged: Him for his condition, her for being a lawyer and a woman. A little more space for this relationship on screen would have been nice, even though I know it was not the point of the plot.

The problem with "Motherless Brooklyn" is the fact that all these good bits I have been describing, are not complemented with an equally good edition. It is not difficult to get lost; sometimes the movie drifts in one direction, and it takes so long to return to the line it was originally following, that you even forget what it was in the first place. In the end, you re not even sure if the main story of the plot is resolved at all. It did not concern me when I first watch it, but the second time it became quite obvious.

The ending was not the plot twist of the decade, but it was not something incapable of surprising.

But what did it for me was the soundtrack. I love jazz, and the way it contributes to the atmosphere of the story is amazing. It adds to the mystery and makes you feel that you are living in the fifties for a little while. The scenes that take place in "The Red Rooster" are some of my favorites.

It was not perfect, I cannot deny it. But I also believe it to be pretty underrated. Maybe last year, amid movies like "Joker" or "Once upon a time in Hollywood" it went slightly unnoticed. Despite all that, I would strongly advise you to put it in your list and take a chance on "Motherless Brooklyn"

If you liked my review on this movie and are interested in purchasing it, you can do so at the link below.

© 2020 Literarycreature


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