38 of 42 people found the following review helpful
on March 4, 2010
Leaves of Grass isn't a movie that you can easily categorize. While it doesn't offer up laughs every few minutes, it's still a clever comedy in the vein of a Coen Brothers film. But you also can't quite call it a black comedy completely in the spirit of Burn After Reading or Fargo. It's equal parts crime drama, humor, romance and philosophy.
The film revolves around the intertwining lives of two identical twins, played by the incredibly talented Edward Norton. Ivy League philosophy professor Bill Kincaid is lured back to his Oklahoma hometown as part of a scheme cooked up by Mary Jane growing brother Brady. The first half hour of the film moves slowly but quickly gains momentum when the two siblings eventually cross paths.
The best part of this movie is easily watching Norton put on brilliant performances as both brothers. The supporting cast is top-notch as well, especially director Tim Blake Nelson in the role of Bolger, Brady's partner in crime. Nelson slips into the role effortlessly, which is no surprise considering he himself is a real-life Okie (a Jewish one at that, which influences a subplot of the movie). My only gripe with casting was Richard Dreyfuss as Jewish gangster Pug Rothbaum, with Dreyfuss giving one of the most bizarre attempts at a Southern accent in film.
I enjoyed the cinematography, Jeff Danna's work on the score, and the infusion of philosophy into the film. As a Southerner, I appreciated the fact that Brady's accent was no reflection on his intelligence. While not as well-read as his sibling, he still gets the occasional profound message across. The only real complaint I have about the film are the jarring scenes of violence. Considering it's not entirely a dark comedy, scenes that involved murders seemed extremely out of place in this movie.
Overall, watching Edward Norton effectively tackle two completely different roles was a real treat. If you enjoy a good drama or comedy that makes you think, definitely check this one out.
20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on April 30, 2010
A double performance by Edward Norton as two entirely opposite brothers is, surprisingly enough, not the only reason to see this film. Yes, Norton's a master of his craft and his stoner hick brother and oxford-cloth uptight prof brother are both equally masterful creations. He dominates every scene, on par with Nicholas Cage's similar turn in Adaptation or more recently Sam Rockwell's in the slow-burn space opera Moon. But even without a competent lead like Norton at the helm, the film succeeds, chiefly do the the adept writing/direction of Tim Black Nelson, who incidentally has a side-kick part as a dim-witted trailer trash fella with a heart of pure gold.
The script is great. Beginning with a philosophy lecture that doesn't feel at all forced and eventually delving into some pretty shocking violence (and lots of pot smoking...with pot that LOOKS LIKE REAL POT! Seriously, pretty convincing for once) the film is a down-home roller coaster ride that even manages to work in Whitman's titular namesake to pretty good effect. Don't except straight up comedy, as the film is pretty gory at times. The tone, in fact, takes a sort of 180 degree shift about 2/3 of the way in, becoming more dramatic ala a warmer, brighter Fargo or a more subdued, less western-oriented Red Rock West. The effect of this shift is a little disorienting, but ultimately it works, seeming to freshen the proceedings. There is palpable suspense. We feel for Norton's characters, both of them. His accent is pretty good and his eyes (especially as the rural brother) are strange and intoxicating. I can't stress enough how unique and interesting this film is. It works as a crime drama, stoner comedy, philosophical treatise on life/the choices we make that make us. It is equal parts funny, screwball, bloody and in the end pretty life-affirming. There are a couple scenes that feel sort of contrived (one subplot involving a wayward Jewish orthodontist seems a little too easy, but is interesting nevertheless) but overall this is a high-brow bit of sweaty-palmed but laugh inducing entertainment and not be missed if you have a fleeting interest in pot flicks and/or low-life crime character studies.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on December 5, 2011
There isn't much to say that hasn't been said by others.
My favorite thing about this film is that it was a new story, not the same boring, meaningless drivel that usually ends up making the most money. The actors & producers weren't trying to make everyone happy, they were trying to make a good film & knew it wouldn't appeal to everyone.
The thing which strikes me most about the story, and yet doesn't get mentioned - is that all of the violence and death in this film comes from the fact that the grass is under prohibition - just like all the violence which resulted from alcohol prohibition and just as regrettable. If Brady could have worked on his agriculture without the threat of prison, he wouldn't have had to deal with a shady dealer of dangerous narcotics for financing. If his plants were legal, he could have resolved his business dispute in court instead of with violence and nobody would have been killed.
Anyway... good movie, I'm glad the film industry still takes risks by shooting quirky, not-for-everyone stories that they know won't make as much money as vapid action thrillers. Every actor in this film earned their keep by presenting believable representations, and of course Ed Norton rocked the hell out of both roles. Not bad camera work either... I read a couple reviews that the "twins" don't exactly look each other in the eye when they're talking to each other... wha? I was too busy enjoying the story to notice nitpicks like that.
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
I enjoyed this move. I thought it had character and realism. That said, I think it is wrong to call it a comedy. It is a fairly hard hitting movie that has very graphic violence and a gritty taste. The comedy is almost all based on tragedy.
I don't recommend it for folks that aren't ready for movie that is rated R based on violence and needs to be.
Good movie, but don't be fooled by characterizations you may read.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on April 9, 2011
"Leaves Of Grass" is kind of a farce, tongue-in-cheek comedy, which is equal parts "My Name Is Earl",
as well as the Mark Twain classic, "The Prince & The Pauper", blended in with some back woods criminal
action, bloody violence, drug humor, and drama. It's very unorthodox and hard to categorize,
but I like that about it! (-:
This is a very good movie, and Ed Norton very convincingly plays dual roles in this.
The supporting cast, which includes the dazzling Susan Sarandon, who plays a somewhat subdued role as
the twins' ex-wild child mother, all give brilliant performances in their individual roles.
I'm not even going to try to describe the plot to you all or anything like that....
I'll just say, rent it first...then, if it appeals to you, add it to your collection.
11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
LEAVES OF GRASS is a writing and directing triumph for Tim Blake Nelson! One of the reasons for such applause is the on-screen impression Nelson brings to his roles - that of a funny but not too bright backwoods hick - and that impression is completely squelched (though not in the character he plays in the film -another dummy) by his intelligent and challenging writing and astute direction. LEAVES OF GRASS as a title begins the dichotomy of message and content of this film: yes, it references Walt Whitman's great book many times and in many ways, but it also refers to the contemporary interpretation of the word 'grass' as being marijuana. It is that kind of double entendre that propels this film of the conflict and life progress of identical twin brothers from Oklahoma - both played with consummate skill by Edward Norton.
Bill Kincaid (Edward Norton) is a brilliant contemporary and classical philosophy professor at Brown University who speaks in academic terms, having isolated his feelings from the world by obsessing on the meanings of the teachings of Plato, Sophocles, etc: passion is destructive and to be avoided. He left his Oklahoma family 12 years ago, unable to relate to the shenanigans of his twin brother ex-con Brady (Edward Norton) and his drug-addled mother Daisy (Susan Sarandon). Back home Brady and Daisy long to see Bill (Daisy has placed herself in a retirement center to avoid bad habits and Brady has developed a sophisticated marijuana production system) and they agree that the only way Bill will come home is if one of them dies. Brady is in trouble with the drug dealer Pug Rothbaum (Richard Dreyfus) in Tulsa and Brady knows that the only way he and his looney partner Bolger (Tim Blake Nelson) can resolve matters is to get Brady's double back home as an alibi. Bill recieves a message that Brady has been murdered and reluctantly decides to go home for the funeral. But arriving home Bill discovers the truth of the ploy and is convinced that if he simply stays in Little Dixie, OK for a weekend he will be able to return to his work. Confrontations occur, both negative and positive: Bill meets school teacher/poet Janet (Keri Russell) and feels an attraction that has been dormant, Brady introduces Bill to the pleasures of his premium marijuana, Bill meets with Daisy in a moving encounter, Brady and Bolger travel to Tulsa and become involved in murder, and when Brady and Bolger return there is a final scene where the broken worlds of the twins is in a way repaired.
That is only a brief outline of the complex plot that Nelson has written and far too many of the subplots have not been mentioned. But LEAVES OF GRASS, like reading Whitman's book, must be savored. The acting is terrific, the atmosphere of Oklahoma is well-captured, and the strange musical score by Jeff Danna matches the story perfectly. Edward Norton is in top form as both of the twins and the rest of the cast - many very well known names are in minor roles - is uniformly fine. It is a comedy but as in the classical sense, a true comedy must contain drama, and there is drama 'aplenty' . Highly recommended. Grady Harp, October 2010
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
I realize some people love this movie so I am going to say that it just might not be the movie for a 62 year old female. If you are a guy who smokes grass, you might consider this in your top ten, by contrast. So I am not seeking to offer my opinion as usable except for those who are like me and say "huh?" when reading over the plot summary.
The good thing about the movie is that Norton does an exceptional job playing two identical twin brothers. One is a University professor and the other grows grass back home in a prairie state. The grass growing twin is unrecognizable as Norton in every respect. What will bring these brothers back together as they have been apart for a long time? That is the basic plot, bringing them back together, as well as with their mother (Susan Sarandon).
Piled on top of this basic plot is a pregnant wife, romance in the air, problems with the pot market and especially the Jewish angle to the pot market, which lets them pour Richard Dreyfuss into the mix. The whole thing was just too much for me. On the whole, however, if you like the sound of this plot and the people in it, they certainly do a good enough job at the acting, writing and directing.
Visit my blog with link given on my profile page here or use this phonetically given URL (livingasseniors dot blogspot dot com). Friday's entry will always be weekend entertainment recs from my 5 star Amazon reviews in film, tv, books and music. These are very heavy on buried treasures and hidden gems. My blogspot is published on Monday, Wednesday & Friday.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on October 16, 2010
The movie starts out great. It is smart, sharp, and witty. I would highly recommend doing a quick reading on Whitman's "Leaves of Grass" on Wiki if you are unfamiliar with Whitman's work, what he was trying to accomplish, the criticism of it, as well as the fact he spent his whole life re-writing and expanding it. The movie had the feel of a five star indie in the beginning. Edward Norton, who I have yet to respect as an actor, plays two roles: Bill Kincaid and his twin brother Brad. Bill and Brad are both super intelligent. Brad, the smarter of the two when young, grows pot and enjoys life on the edge. Bill teaches classical philosophy at Brown University. Brad gets his girlfriend pregnant and in order to get Bill to come back to Oklahoma for the wedding, has his friend contact Bill and tell him that he is dead.
Brad has other plans for Bill and plans to use him as an alibi. At this point the movie goes from great to WTF? The flick digresses into what appears to be a writer's inability to figure out how to end a story. Brad, as the smarter brother should of had a better scheme, one where everyone gets what they want, rather than do things by the seat of his pants. I was very disappointed in the writers for leading us down a path that would have made a great classic movie and then not being able to close the deal.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
This movie will go over some heads because it's an unusual black comedy. However, I loved it enough to buy it after renting it. Edward Norton is brilliant in so many genres and this is a great example. The plot is twisted and yet he plays the twins seamlessly and in a convincing manner. I have yet to see a bad movie from him. Try it out.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on March 19, 2011
Didn't the ivy-league classical philosophy professor misuse the word "precipitous"? Never mind... I enjoyed Edward Norton in both these roles, so the crooked stitching here and there is not a bad price to pay. Though far short of being another "Fargo," this is a watchable, memorable dark comedy, with great characters and perfect casting in my opinion. I'm glad they strove for the right Okie accent, cowboy Southern like my Grandma and Grandpa and uncles and cousins. Most movies flop so badly in this area (of Southern accents) that I can't let loose and accept the story, or even sit through the movie sometimes. The grammar was WAY, way off, but nobody's ever going to get both the syntax AND the drawl near-right, it is asking too much of Hollywood.
But it curdles my milk to be watching happily along, and here comes the "I hate you, Mommy, you ignored me, and your whole generation ruined the world for your kids!" bit from the 28-48 year old grownup child. Parent obsession is so eerie to me, in real life and fiction. Flipping out on your mother and throwing a snit that makes you feel better by making her feel bad (that's her job!) is unmanly by definition (and even uglier, I think, when a daughter does it). This son took special university courses to try and figure out his mommy. Please! He didn't! Yes, he claims that indeed he did.
What he really needed was the one thing he's never going to get: a personal note from Uncle Sam ordering him to report for active duty in the Army or Marines, destination Vietnam. Think how much that could have taught this fragile boy-child about the generation he so deeply puzzles over.
There were some mean jabs at Oklahoma in this movie that seemed gratuitous, even jammed into the script much the way I'm jamming this paragraph into my review. "Nobody goes to Oklahoma for the tourism or culture," said the orthodontist on the flight from New York, "I mean no one!" Or words in that vein. It went on like that for a protracted length of time that felt downright strained. Oklahoma tourism is in fact resplendent and thriving. Mountains, waterfalls, caves, crystal lakes, lonesome prairies with prairie dogs popping in and out of their holes (cute!), cliffs, blazing sunsets and starlit nights -- boating, swimming, fishing -- and nowhere in the world is prettier than Oklahoma. To jab the region and its people in the particular way this movie did in that one scene...many might consider that cheap and tacky. Bill Maher would probably wallow in it like a hog in cool mud on an August afternoon. But what about everyone else?
I just can't leave without a lecture or two, sorry! The brother and son in LEAVES OF GRASS had more than enough to contend with and he did it well. Good movie.