Motherless Brooklyn Trailer: Edward Norton Brings Jonathan Lethem’s Novel To Life

Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Edward Norton in Motherless Brooklyn

Edward Norton is a 1950s detective solving his only friend’s murder in the first trailer for Motherless Brooklyn. The film is Norton’s first directorial effort since helming the romantic comedy Keeping the Faith back in 2000, and it’s the first film he’s credited as the writer, director, and star of. Norton’s creative hat trick also has him adapting the work of acclaimed novelist Jonathan Lethem, who wrote the noir-ish tale of Lionel Essrog back in 1999, becoming one of the author’s most acclaimed works in his lengthy bibliography. 

Not your average detective yarn by any means, Motherless Brooklyn follows the aforementioned Essrog — a P.I. struggling with Tourette’s Syndrome — as he investigates the murder of Frank Minna, his only friend and mentor, played by Bruce Willis. Apparently, the appeal of Norton writing, directing, and starring in a period detective story was enough for the film to nab an impressive cast that goes well beyond Willis. The film also includes Willem Dafoe, Ethan Suplee, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Michael K. Williams, Leslie Mann, Alec Baldwin, Bobby Cannavale, and more. Whether it’s just a truly amazing script or Norton simply went through his contacts list and literally called in a few favors remains to be seen, but audiences will find out soon enough as the film will make its premiere during closing night of the 2019 New York Film Festival. It will also screen at the 2019 Toronto Film Festival before hitting theaters in November. 

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The trailer certainly shows Norton’s chops in regard to creating a stylish noir story. The period details are particularly striking, as he’s clearly interested in sticking to the source material’s setting, as well as its subversion of certain classic detective novel tropes. In addition to Norton’s depiction of his character’s affliction, the trailer is essentially a cavalcade of big-name stars, which may help Motherless Brooklyn’s box office chances, as well as its awards hopes. Check out the film’s first trailer below:

With its great cast and intriguing hook within a familiar genre, it looks as though Motherless Brooklyn might stand a chance of being a late fall breakout, if not, at the very least, a critical darling. Norton’s developed quite a reputation for his script tinkering in the past, so it will be interesting to see how he fares here, even if - or because - he’s adapting from Lethem’s novel. To that end, it will be a treat for fans of Lethem’s work to finally see something in his catalog adapted to film. His latest release, The Feral Detective saw the author return to the detective genre, so perhaps if Motherless Brooklyn is a hit, Hollywood will come knocking for more. 

At any rate, the film looks to be one to keep an eye on at the aforementioned film festivals and when it finally makes its theatrical bow in early November. While it’s subject matter, setting, and nearly two-and-a-half-hour runtime might limit its audience somewhat, it looks as thought there’s still plenty there to attract some crowds. 

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Motherless Brooklyn opens in theaters on Friday, November 1, 2019.

Key Release Dates
  • Motherless Brooklyn (2019) release date: Nov 01, 2019
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