Once one of the biggest actors in Hollywood, Edward Norton seems to have slipped in recent years – perhaps not so much in acting ability or role choices, but certainly in the public eye. Despite having been in multiple productions over the last few years, it seems like Norton had shut himself off from the world since the release of 2014’s Birdman. That is, until this year, with the release of Motherless Brooklyn: a twenty-year passion project in which Norton would write, direct, and produce.
Originally told within a contemporary setting, Norton believed that the story would work better within a more noir style and set it within 1950s New York. It turns out to be a good move on the part of Norton, not only because it fits the story perfectly, but due to the comparisons it creates between the world of then and the world of now. That’s an idea which is perfectly encapsulated in the character of Moses Randolph (Alec Baldwin), a mad-with-power politician who holds a monopoly over New York. Baldwin’s performance as the character is another reminder why he is one of the greatest actors of all time.
Helming the director’s chair for the first time since 2000’s Keeping The Faith, Norton doesn’t seem to have lost a step, with his passion for the story really shining through in how selfless he is with his own character. He simply lets others shine, as well as writing in a way that is true to his character. There isn’t much flair to his own style, which can be a little problematic considering the noir style, but fortunately the writing more than makes up for it.
The cinematography by Dick Pope is a little underwhelming, considering his previous works, but this can perhaps be put down more to the choppy editing rather than Pope himself.
Considering the twenty-year wait for Motherless Brooklyn to get made, it can come across as something of a disappointment, but the film’s positives heavily outweigh the negatives, in large part due to Norton’s clear love and passion for the story. It’s a film which will undoubtedly go under the radar in some respects, but one which deserves to be seen nonetheless.