Motherless Brooklyn
**** A rich cinematic cake of melodrama and mystery, Motherless Brooklyn proves Edward Norton’s directing can be almost as delicious as his acting. Adapting Jonathan Lethem’s 1999 novel, he takes us on a pulpy ride through a 1950s New York City ruled by Moses Randolph (Alec Baldwin), a racist power broker who may be tied to the killing of private investigator Frank Minna (Bruce Willis). Lionel (Norton), one of Minna’s devoted lackeys, spends the film trying to crack the case, descending into a conspiracy that has ensnared a flamboyant grouch (Willem Dafoe), a housing rights activist (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) and a trumpet player (Michael Kenneth Williams) who uses his horn in beautiful and deadly ways. Lionel isn’t a standard-issue detective—he has Tourette’s syndrome, which he copes with by chewing gum and smoking weed—but he is a hero. Norton’s direction sucks us into his romantic fantasy of a world where one principled loner in a peacoat and fedora can find justice by sticking it to tyrants like Randolph (a Trump-like figure far more chilling than Baldwin’s SNL impersonation of the president). Some audiences may find the film naive, but others will be entertained and heartened by its fusion of escapism and idealism as they follow Lionel down each haunted street, getting closer and closer to the truth. R. BENNETT CAMPBELL FERGUSON. Dine-In Progress Ridge 13, Vancouver Mall 23, Cedar Hills, Clackamas, Eastport, Bridgeport, Cascade, City Center, Evergreen Parkway, Fox Tower, Tigard.