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20 Jan 2020

Home Video Review: 'Motherless Brooklyn' Looks Great and Has a Fantastic Cast—but the Story Fails to Engage

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Edward Norton and Willem Dafoe in Motherless Brooklyn. Edward Norton and Willem Dafoe in Motherless Brooklyn.

Edward Norton directs, writes the screenplay and stars in Motherless Brooklyn, a decent-enough adaptation of the Jonathan Lethem novel of the same name. It’s an OK movie, but it isn’t going to change anybody’s lives.

Norton certainly made a good-looking film here. Motherless Brooklyn is set in the ’50s, and the period details are impressive; the costuming is first-rate; and the camerawork is stellar.

As for the story … there is a convoluted plot involving murder mysteries and real estate development. It doesn’t feel like anything new—except for the twist that Norton’s private detective has Tourette’s syndrome. Norton does a convincing job of exhibiting this affliction through a series of verbal and physical ticks, coupled with obsessive-compulsive behavior. No doubt: The most-interesting aspect of this movie is Norton’s character, Lionel.

Norton assembles a strong cast, including Alec Baldwin, Willem Dafoe, Ethan Suplee (before he got ripped) and Cherry Jones. Everybody does good work, but it’s in service of a story that isn’t all that engaging. Norton did a lot of work here for a movie that is just OK.

Motherless Brooklyn is available via online sources including iTunes and Amazon.com.

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