Motherless Brooklyn (2019)
In what is only his second outing as director (after Keeping the Faith), and first time as writer, Edward Norton demonstrates that he can handle the added responsibility – and give a sensitive performance in front of the camera to boot. Motherless Brooklyn is based on Jonathan Lethem's award-winning novel of the same name about private detectives and corrupt city-planners in New York City, but in Norton's vision the story has been moved to the 1950s and draped in genre-recognizable noir elements. It's a risky strategy, because films in this sub-genre have a tendency to end up as a cliché-fest. Fortunately for Motherless Brooklyn, the filmmakers' craftmanship overshadows the stereotyping, and the little touches of novelty work wonders for the overall effect. Norton's remarkable, unusual performance is one of them. This is the first time I've seen Tourette syndrome given a believable face in movies. And Norton the actor is accompanied by clever choices also by Norton the producer: Daniel Pemberton's beautiful jazzy score, Dick Pope's atmospheric cinematography, Michael Ahern and Beth Mickle's wonderful art direction, and director Norton's elegant pacing. The star-studded cast add some additional zest, but this is all Norton's show.