Motherless Brooklyn

[4.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

A pretty good movie. Edward Norton wrote it for the screen (adapting a Jonathan Lethem novel), directed, and stars. A cynical take: he's thinking Oscars! Unfortunately, it got zero Oscar nominations (but one Golden Globe nomination). Don't know what happened there. Maybe it was too long. (Two hours, twenty-four minutes.)

It's set in 1950s New York, and Norton plays Lionel Essrog, who works for an investigatory firm headed by his father-figure mentor, Frank (Bruce Willis). Unfortunately, Frank keeps Lionel and his co-investigators mostly in the dark on a job that gets him seriously killed. Lionel and the rest of the crew try to find out what Frank was working on, and bring his killers to justice.

Lionel has Tourette's Syndrome, which causes him to blurt out uncontrollable streams of words at unpredictable times. This bothers people a lot less than you might think. Pretty soon, he's made connections to New York's major development guru, Moses Randolph (Alec Baldwin), a thinly-disguised Robert Moses. Opposing Moses is a plucky activist, Gabby Horowitz (Cherry Jones), an equally thinly-diguised Jane Jacobs. But also in the mix is Laura Rose (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), who unexpectedly becomes a love interest.

Well, it's long and the mystery's solution is pretty sordid. Alec Baldwin is well-known these days for doing a one-note Trump impression on Saturday Night Live, and I'm pretty sure some of that leaks into his performance here, where Moses talks about his, um, liaison with a woman decades past.

The period details are pretty amazing: lots of old cars and storefronts. And a resurrected Penn Station.