Tourette’s can’t kill a sleuth’s thirst for truth.
Ed Norton’s new gumshoe noir is a labor of love that’s “as loving as it is laborious,” said Peter Bradshaw in TheGuardian.com. Adapting a Jonathan Lethem novel but pushing its setting back to the 1950s, Norton both directs and stars, playing Lionel Essrog, a detective with Tourette’s syndrome who discovers a deeper conspiracy when he begins investigating the murder of his mentor. Twenty years in the making, the movie “piles up detail upon detail, incident upon incident, all swirling in a smoky, sooty world,” and becomes almost too much to absorb. A villain eventually emerges in the character of a Robert Moses–like city planner played by Alec Baldwin, said Todd McCarthy in The Hollywood Reporter. But as Essrog grows fond of a Harlem jazz club while worrying over the politics of urban redevelopment, viewer fatigue sets in. “Any number of scenes are inscrutable in terms of dramatic need or even what’s actually going on.” Still, if Motherless Brooklyn isn’t the 2019 Chinatown it wants to be, it does cast “a quiet sort of spell,” said Leah Greenblatt in Entertainment Weekly. With Norton’s tic-plagued Essrog at its center, it pays moody tribute to people of the past who can’t speak, at least as they’d want to, for themselves.
Netflix/Everett Collection, Glen Wilson/Focus Features, Glen Wilson ■