(US - 2019)
Written and directed by Edward Norton. Cast: Edward Norton, Bruce Willis, Willem Dafoe, Alec Baldwin, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Bobby Cannavale, Cherry Jones, Michael Kenneth Williams, Leslie Mann, Ethan Suplee, Dallas Roberts, Fisher Stevens, Josh Pais, Robert Ray Wisdom, Radu Spinghel, Peter Lewis, Stephen Adley Guirgis, DeShawn White. (R, 144 mins)
If it seems like MOTHERLESS BROOKLYN is the kind of film that's been frozen in ice since 2002 and is just now getting thawed, that could be because director/writer/star Edward Norton has been shepherding it through a nearly two-decade development since he purchased the movie rights to Jonathan Lethem's acclaimed novel shortly after it was published in 1999. But it's also because this is the kind of prestige piece that's becoming an increasingly rare commodity in multiplexes these days. A complex NYC noir with echoes of CHINATOWN and a generous helping of the kind of big-city corruption that's reminiscent of Sidney Lumet, MOTHERLESS BROOKLYN probably would've received a more welcome reception as a period HBO or Netflix miniseries, where it would've earned significant acclaim and cleaned up at the Emmys and the Golden Globes. But in theaters, it's a different story. Warner Bros. even seemed to lose confidence in it as the release date approached, knocking it down to 1300 screens in the days before it opened, even after a relentless TV ad blitz in the preceding weeks. The sad fact is that times have changed, and in an era when everything has to be a blockbuster, this kind of modest, mid-level production doesn't bring in the crowds anymore, whether you want to call it a movie for "grownups" or one that's geared toward "older audiences," or simply, a "dad movie." There's plenty of explanations--the trend toward mega-budget franchises, the fact that it'll be on VOD and Blu-ray in three or four months, and that, let's be honest, Norton hasn't headlined a hit movie in a long time. Even though it's a top-notch "dad movie," it's still a small miracle that MOTHERLESS BROOKLYN is in theaters at all.
THE SCORE schtick, but fortunately, Norton the actor is kept in check by Norton the director, who's careful to avoid turning his long-gestating pet project into a self-indulgent vanity project.
|"Bruce, I said I'd *try* to get you out of here
in one day, but I never made any guarantees."