Monday, July 13, 2020     Volume: 21, Issue: 19
Signup

Santa Maria Sun / Film

This weeks review
13TH (2020)
BINGABLE: ABANDONED (2016)
BINGEABLE: Barry
BINGEABLE: CASA DE LAS FLORES
BINGEABLE: FLEABAG
BINGEABLE: GRACE AND FRANKIE
BINGEABLE: NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC DOCUMENTARIES
BINGEABLE: OUTLANDER (2014-present)
BINGEABLE: STRANGER THINGS 3
BINGEABLE: THE SINNER (SEASON 2)
BLAST FROM THE PAST: COOL RUNNINGS (1993)
BLAST FROM THE PAST: FISH TANK (2009)
BLAST FROM THE PAST: HOUSE
BLAST FROM THE PAST: OLDBOY
BLAST FROM THE PAST: RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK
BLAST FROM THE PAST: THE MATRIX
BLAST FROM THE PAST: THE PRESTIGE (2006)
BLAST FROM THE PAST: WILD AT HEART
BLOW THE MAN DOWN
DA 5 BLOODS
DICK TRACY (1990)
GUILTY PLEASURES: CHEER (2020)
HANNIBAL (2013-2015)
HAVE A GOOD TRIP: ADVENTURES IN PSYCHEDELICS
HEARST CASTLE: BUILDING THE DREAM
I KNOW THIS MUCH IS TRUE
I’LL BE GONE IN THE DARK
JOJO RABBIT
JUST MERCY
MOTHERLESS BROOKLYN
RAMY
SHUT UP LITTLE MAN! AN AUDIO MISADVENTURE (2011)
SLOMOTION@HOME Festival
THE BIGGEST LITTLE FARM
THE HIGH NOTE
THE LOVEBIRDS
THE PEANUT BUTTER FALCON
THE VAST OF NIGHT
TV REVIEW: BOSCH
TV REVIEW: HOMECOMING
TV REVIEW: LENOX HILL
TV REVIEW: LITTLE AMERICA
TV REVIEW: MRS. AMERICA
TV REVIEW: PANDEMIC: HOW TO PREVENT AN OUTBREAK (2020)
TV REVIEW: RUN
TV REVIEW: SELF MADE: INSPIRED BY THE LIFE OF MADAM C.J. WALKER
TV REVIEW: SPACE FORCE
TV REVIEW: TABOO
TV REVIEW: THE END OF THE F***ING WORLD
TV REVIEW: THE LAST KINGDOM
TV REVIEW: THE MIDNIGHT GOSPEL
TV REVIEW: THE PLOT AGAINST AMERICA
TV REVIEW: UNDONE
TV REVIEW: WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS
TV REVIEW: ZEROZEROZERO
UNDERRATED: BATMAN BEGINS
UNDERRATED: DOUBLE DRAGON (1994)
UNDERRATED: SHUTTER ISLAND
UNDERRATED: THE BATTERED BASTARDS OF BASEBALL

Motherless Brooklyn is a deliciously complicated neo-noir crime mystery

MOTHERLESS BROOKLYN

PHOTO BY PHOTOS COURTESY OF WARNER BROS. PICTURES

MOTHERLESS BROOKLYN


Where is it playing?: Santa Maria 14

What's it rated?: PG-13

What's it worth?: $Full price (Anna Starkey)

What's it worth?: $Full price (Glen Starkey)

User Rating: 0.00 (0 Votes)

Writer-director Edward Norton (Keeping the Faith) helms this 1950s-period crime drama based on Jonathan Lethem’s novel about Tourette Syndrome-afflicted private detective Lionel “Brooklyn” Essrog, who works to solve the murder of his mentor and only friend, Frank Minna (Bruce Willis). (144 min.)

Glen: If you’re in the mood for a “good old-fashioned” neo-noir in the style of Chinatown, this is the film for you. The film opens with Lionel and his colleague, Gilbert Coney (Ethan Suplee), staking out an operation their boss, Frank Minna, has kept them in the dark about. They don’t know what Frank’s into, but they know that depending on his signal, they need to cover him or follow him in their car. It’s a taunt opening set-up and one that goes quickly wrong as Frank is murdered right before their eyes. Who did it and why is what the rest of the film is all about. We’re in the dark as much as Lionel is, and we’re along for the ride as he slowly pieces together the mystery, which seems to center on Laura Rose (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), an assistant to low-income housing advocate Gabby Horowitz (Cherry Jones), who’s fighting the powers that be in New York City, who have been evicting black and brown residents and gentrifying their neighborhoods, leaving the former residents with nowhere to go but out. Who’s really pulling the strings behind the city redevelopment? It’s certainly not the newly elected puppet mayor (Peter Gray Lewis). Instead, it’s Frank Moses (Alec Baldwin), an appointed commissioner who really wields the power. So why did Moses come down on Minna? He’s afraid of a file Minna had on him, but what is it about? Maybe it’s about Moses’ brother, Paul, a brilliant electrical engineer who’s trying to upgrade the electrical grid, or maybe it’s about nightclub owner Billy Rose (Robert Wisdom), who’s somehow related to Laura Rose, who lives above his club. Obviously, this is a story with a lot of moving parts, but Norton, directing himself, does a fantastic job of keeping it mysterious but not muddled.

Anna: I found Motherless Brooklyn to be a gripping mystery and a well-crafted character study for Norton. Lionel, with his bursts of foul language and unyielding loyalty to his friend Frank, is totally endearing and the quest he’s on is a genuine series of twists and turns. Lionel was raised in a Catholic school for boys (aka an orphanage) along with his lifelong friends Tony (Bobby Cannavale), Danny (Dallas Roberts), and Gil. All four boys were taken under Frank’s wing and they all operate under him in a car service/private eye operation. Lionel’s top-notch memory is a huge asset to the business and his unstoppable devotion to Frank means he’ll never leave his mentor’s side—even after Frank’s death. It happens early on in the film, so most of the time we spend is alongside Lionel as he works the investigation and seeds a blooming relationship with Laura. There’s no denying that Norton is a phenomenal actor and with Motherless Brooklyn he proves his direction is also compelling. This movie just looks and sounds cool.

Glen: The attention to detail really transports viewers to 1950s-era New York, with the cars, storefronts, and clothes of the era. The performances are all top-notch as well. Norton has proved adept at playing characters with peculiar ticks, from his stuttering southerner Aaron Sampler/“Roy” in Primal Fear (1996) to his turn as fake cerebral palsy sufferer, Jack Teller, in The Score (2001). He’s terrific as Lionel, who’s ever apologetic about his outbursts in an era that hadn’t yet found a name for Tourette Syndrome. Baldwin is all thick-necked menace as Moses, who’s disinterested in money and notoriety. He seeks raw power, the kind of power that will let you get away with anything. Mbatha-Raw also delivers as the sympathetic Laura, the woman at the center of the mystery. When Laura takes Lionel to Billy’s jazz nightclub, mostly filled with black patrons, the music sets Lionel’s affliction off, and soon he catches the eye of the band’s trumpet player (Michael Kenneth Williams, who’s fantastic here), who recognizes something special in Lionel’s ability to feel the music. There’s just a lot of talent up on the screen, and the mystery resolves in a very satisfying way … if you can keep up with it all. If you’re a mystery fan, like an engrossing character study, or enjoy film noir, Motherless Brooklyn ticks all the boxes.

Anna: Baldwin is impressively unlikeable as the powerful yet still power hungry commissioner; his seething all-or-nothing mentality doesn’t hide far below the surface. The connections between himself and Paul, Billie, and Laura are a winding mess that kept me guessing well into the almost two and a half hours the film spans. Arguably Motherless Brooklyn runs a little long—it could have been tightened up—but overall I didn’t mind the length. I was kept guessing and that meant I stayed engaged from beginning to end. The film is an adaptation of a novel by the same name by Jonathan Lethem, and while I haven’t read the book yet, this film made me want to. It’s a rich world—between some awesome costuming and recreating the New York of the 1950s, Motherless Brooklyn creates a world we are easily transported to. I hope Norton gets the directing bug again soon. I’d hate to wait another 19 years to see his directorial work on the big screen! 

Sun Screen is written by New Times Senior Staff Writer Glen Starkey and his wife, Anna. Comment at gstarkey@newtimesslo.com.








Weekly Poll
What'd you make of the county's decision to close beaches for the Fourth of July weekend?

It was sensible since counties to the south closed their beaches.
I was OK with it. I set off fireworks at home instead.
It was ridiculous. The restrictions have to stop.
It didn't matter. I went to SLO County.

| Poll Results






My 805 Tix - Tickets to upcoming events