Lionel Essrog, the freak show as we call him, he is such a special kind of character. His Tourette syndrome makes him remarkable and eccentric that no one else can be alike. His uniqueness makes the story more interesting, funnier and much more emotional. That being so, he is the main reason why we should turn Lethem’s novel into a movie. In fact, we must thank Lethem for his astounding writing and creation of an amazing character. I do believe that the movie will be a massive success because of Lionel’s syndrome, evolution and character, plus a few emotional moments he’s part in. He sends a message that people with disorders are not fools, as many think.

I am here to make this movie happen. So let me describe Lionel in a concise way, to give you perfect examples to why it is worth to produce it. But before I do, I heard that the film crew is in search of an actor that could act as the main character. You guys seem to have a very big budget. So I guess I have a good suggestion, a very good one: Ryan Reynolds. Yes, the humorous actor from Deadpool. I feel he has a great balance from his look to his ability to perform to play as Lionel. I can easily imagine him narrating the movie just as much as he did in Deadpool.


Image result for beard vs no beard

As I previously said, Lionel is unique because of his tics. It is an important characteristic that sets him off of the norms because it is not very often that we read about a main character with a disease like Tourette syndrome. In the novel, he thinks it is portraying a negative image to the persons around him:“Some stared, others looked away, bored. I’d been identified by the crowd as some sort of patient: spirit or animal possession, verbal epileptic seizure, whatever” (31). Many individuals may identify him as a crazy fool because of his compulsions. Lionel’s movements evoke aggressiveness to their perception and it is what disconnects him from the rest of the world; this lowers his self-esteem. I think it’s a clear message that misjudgments can lead to misconceptions because the uninformed ones will never understand the reality. Moreover, his tic’s temper shifts depending the situation he’s in. This incorporates various sets of tones in few key scenes, which arouse emotions to the audience. One of my favorite part is when Lionel got confronted by the Homicide cop:

“Can we go back to—fuckmeblackcop—back to talking nice now?”

“What you say?”

“Nothing. Let go of my collar.” I’d kept the outburst down to a mumble—-and I knew to be grateful my Tourette’s brain hadn’t dialed up nigger” (114).


His outburst turn the whole scene into a facetious time. Some of the words such as “fuckmeblackcop’’ can be upsetting for some, but for some like me, it can be hilarious.  It’s moments like this that makes the story more humorist and a lot less boring than it should, since the novel is about finding a killer in an investigation. Considering the choices of words from Lionel, he uses satire a lot in most of his descriptions. For instance, Rockaforte’s face is easily mocked by Lionel. By merging his puffy face with blotches, Lionel easily describe it as “potatolike”(173). I could give many more descriptions from the novel, but the number is endless. This is a crucial element for the movie. I strongly suggest that the filmmakers execute every single descriptions, from A to Z, to give a perfect representation of the setting on the movie. They should be obvious on the scenes as the main character glances on the environment or on people around him.

Speaking of funny moments, some can be memorable and perhaps engrossing. For instance, Lionel meets various characters such as Kimmery. Both become friend and rapidly get intimate. Hardboiled characters usually express their feelings. This time, Lionel feels calm and relaxed: “I was never less ticcish than this: aroused, pressing toward another’s body/ Kimmery had somehow spared me ticcing aloud in conversation/I felt free to incorporate an element of Tourette’s into our groping” (220). He is experiencing a seductive moment with a woman by being touched and feeling her attractive body. A moment like this is very thrilling. Thus, Kimmery’s tenderness alleviates Lionel’s Tourette syndrome. If the movie executes this scene well, the audience will surely keep their eyes on the screen.

Image result for movie sex scene

Furthermore, his eager to be with Kimmery intensifies due to his loneliness.  As mentioned before, Lionel is disconnected from the world because of his disease. To live with someone could largely affect his life because he could be with a person he truly loves. For instance, he’s revealing his fondness towards Kimmery while speaking on a telephone, but her response is quite reluctant: “You’re kind of overwhelming… I like talking to you, but it isn’t a good idea to call three times right after, you know, spending the night.” (259). Despite the night they’ve spent together, becoming more intimate isn’t appropriate yet from the lady’s perspective. The recurrent calls from Lionel isn’t pleasing Kimmery, which means she doesn’t have any deep affection on him. This desperate scene could be sentimental to the audience because Lionel isn’t getting what he actually want, which is connection and acceptance. Connection and acceptance, let’s think about it. Are people connecting and accepting persons with disease usually?

Getting out of the realm of syndromes, let’s talk about Lionel’s evolution. From the beginning to the end of the novel, we learn how big Frank Minna’s place is in Lionel’s heart. But we also know that Minna’s death made a big hole in Lionel’s heart, a very big one. The sorrowful driving to save him wasn’t enough; not fast enough to clutch it. It is an inconsolable part of the novel seeing that Lionel loses a big part of his life. Thus, Lionel has to face big changes in his forthcoming days: “It seemed possible I was the first awake in the world, possible the world was new. I dressed in my best suit, donned Minna’s watch instead of my own, and clipped his beeper to my hip.[…] I’d woken into the realization that I was Minna’s successor and avenger, that the city shone  with clues.” (132). Lionel impersonates himself as his associate by garbing the watch and the beeper: he is becoming Minna 2.0. The hero is becoming independent because of soul mate’s departure. It sets him free to take charge of the investigation in the city and avenge Minna by seeking the killer. Into the bargain, Lionel’s impersonation is not only portrayed by his look but also by his actions. It is proven when he meets Gerard Minna: “He really taught you everything, I suppose. You sound just like him when you speak. What an odd life really. You realize that, don’t you?” (231). Since his childhood, Lionel was led by Minna and the rest of his crew. He was a freak show to Minna’s eyes because of his risible disease. Both created a very close friendship that taught them to make jokes and to speak alike. They’ve stayed together and became detectives. Inevitably, Minna’s character stayed in Lionel persona.

I believe that the movie will be a success and give the message if well executed. Lionel, as a character, has a great potential to give a memorable story and I think Ryan Reynolds can make the movie justice with his great talent on acting. Lionel has a funny character considering his compulsions and satire humour in his descriptions. Also his relations with his friends such as Minna and Kimmery can evoke sentimental emotions because of acceptance and sorrow.  The movie should end with an uplifting and dramatic music showing that he is starting a new life regardless of recent events: “Make like a tree, and leave. Tell your story walking.” (311). The tree will be the footprint of his previous chapter and all the lost. He will start a brand new one moving forward.


Image result for looking forward

Work citeds:

Lethem,  Jonathan. Motherless Brooklyn. Vintage Books, 1999

“Hardboiled.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 29 Sep. 2016. Web. 29 Sep. 2016.

Ricardo Thomassini – I am truly sorry for the late submission, I didn’t want to rush this essay. My only legitimate excuses are workload and time(lacking).


One thought on “LET’EM FREAK

  1. This is a nice look into Lionel’s character. You provide some interesting evidence. I like that you focused your discussion around the perception of mental illness. This is an interesting angle from which to read the novel. Good work.


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