Movie Review: Motherless Brooklyn

What is more interesting than the new film, “Motherless Brooklyn”, directed by Edward Norton, is the 20 year timeline on how this film was finally made.

This story all started in 1999 when Edward Norton purchased the rights to Jonathan Lethem’s novel Motherless Brooklyn. It was first decided to change the time of the film from 1999 to the 1950’s. Then 13 years went by until Edward Norton finally completed the writing of the script. Then another 2 years until 2014 until Norton decided to direct the movie himself. It then took another 4 years to finally start shooting this movie in February 2018 and within weeks on March 22, 2018 a fire broke out in one of the buildings used for production and a firefighter Michael R. Davidson of Engine 69 was killed in the fire. Production finally resumed over a week later, but there are outstanding lawsuits suing Norton’s production company that are still pending.

The point of all this is to remember that the road from idea to shooting, to end of production and then release of any movie can very often take many years, many millions of dollars and after all of this, the end result can be a movie like this one, that is both too long and too boring. Why so much time and effort was spent to make this film, that does not have enough of an interesting story, escapes me. This also escapes the critics who are giving this movie a very anemic 65% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, a number that I unfortunately agree with.

This story is about political corruption in Brooklyn in the 1950’s and one of the most impressive things about this film is the attention to detail, with every parked car on every road filmed a car from the 1940’s or 1950’s, then add the period clothing and then set design and the budget for this film that looks like it might barely break even must have been very high.  Another tell tale sign of a movie that will no do well, is the small number of theaters in my area that show this movie. 

I thought the acting in this movie was good, regardless of the problems. Starring Edward Norton as a private investigator who has a severe case of Tourette’s Syndrome, Bruce Willis who has a small part in the beginning, and Alec Baldwin who has some very good scenes at the end of this film.  It seemed to me that introducing Tourette’s, was not only unnecessary but perhaps an idea to make a long and mostly boring movie more interesting. For me, this did not work, and neither do the 25 or so episodes of Tourette’s by Norton’s character. I can only wonder how Edward Norton feels after spending so many years trying to get this movie to theaters only to have below average ratings after so much effort for so long. That is the movie business in a nutshell, perhaps the most difficult and most risky business in the world.

Due to the mostly boring and too long story, I agree with the critics this time and do not recommend this movie.