Motherless Brooklyn


D: Edward Norton

Warner Bros/Class 5/MWM (Edward Norton, Bill Migliore, Gigi Pritzker, Rachel Shane & Michael Bederman)

US 2019

144 mins


W: Edward Norton [based on the novel by Jonathan Lethem]

DP: Dick Pope

Ed: Joe Klotz

Mus: Daniel Pemberton

PD: Beth Mickle

Cos: Amy Roth

Edward Norton (Lionel Essrog), Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Laura Rose), Bruce Willis (Frank Minna), Alec Baldwin (Moses Randolph), Bobby Cannavale (Tony Vermonte), Willem Dafoe (Paul), Leslie Mann (Julia Minna)

Motherless Brooklyn was a pet project for Edward Norton, who not only starred in this adaptation of Jonathan Lethem's novel, but also wrote the screenplay, directed and produced, spending nearly 20 years trying to get it onto the big screen.

A modern film noir set in the late 1950's, Norton stars as Lionel Essrog, a private detective suffering from a form of Tourette's Syndrome who investigates his gumshoe boss and friend's death following a negotiation meeting gone wrong.

His investigation uncovers corruption amongst government and town planning officials, surrounding a development plot that creates poor neighbourhoods and displaces African-American residents.

The story is quite reminiscent of 1974's Chinatown, albeit on the East Coast rather than the West and negating any incestuous subplots. 

The cast are all fantastic, and it's a solid script from Edward Norton, full of believable dialogue and characters. Full marks also have to go to the production design and costume department for providing a convincing period backdrop, as well as Dick Pope for his cinematography and Daniel Pemberton for his excellent music score.

It's unfortunate that this was a box office failure, as this had far more to do with a lack of marketing by the distributors, rather than the quality of the film.


Edward Norton & Willem Dafoe in Motherless Brooklyn
Edward Norton & Willem Dafoe in Motherless Brooklyn