In the works for two decades, Edward Norton’s adaptation of Jonathan Lethem’s novel Motherless Brooklyn is right around the corner. That long development time saw Norton totally reconfigure the film, changing the detective story’s setting and introducing brand new characters. Whether fans of the book are willing to accept what he’s done we’ll begin to find out now with the debut trailer ahead of its upcoming festival run.
Norton plays Lionel Essrog, an obsessive-compulsive private eye with Tourette Syndrome determined to solve the murder of his mentor, uncovering a major conspiracy in the process. Lethem had set his book in the 1990s but Norton sought to make his version unique by using 1950s New York City as the backdrop. He also the character Laura Rose, played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw, who looks like a potential love interest, or femme fatale.
Alongside Norton and Mbatha-Raw are Bruce Willis, Willem Dafoe, Bobby Cannavale, Alec Baldwin, Michael K. Williams, Ethan Suplee, and Leslie Mann.
SYNOPSIS: Lionel Essrog (Edward Norton), a lonely private detective living with Tourette Syndrome, ventures to solve the murder of his mentor and only friend, Frank Minna (Bruce Willis). Armed only with a few clues and the engine of his obsessive mind, Lionel unravels closely-guarded secrets that hold the fate of New York in the balance. In a mystery that carries him from gin-soaked jazz clubs in Harlem to the hard-edged slums of Brooklyn and, finally, into the gilded halls of New York’s power brokers, Lionel contends with thugs, corruption and the most dangerous man in the city to honor his friend and save the woman who might be his own salvation.
I think it’s safe to say this film hinges on Norton’s twitchy performance, and if he can keep it from becoming too cartoonish. In some of the scenes here I’m not so sure, in others Norton looks to be in firm control.
Motherless Brooklyn hits theaters on November 1st.