Leaves of Grass
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Tim Blake Nelsonas Leaves of Grass is a comic thriller seen through the dual perspectives of identical twins Bill and Brady Kincaid (both played by two-time Academy AwardA nominee Edward Norton). Bill, a classical philosophy professor at Brown University, returns home upon news of his brother Bradyas murder in a drug deal gone awry. Bill quickly learns that Bradyas death has been grossly exaggerated, as heas swept up into one of his brotheras crazy schemes. Alongside his eccentric mother (Susan Sarandon) and a beautiful woman named Janet (Keri Russell), Bill participates in his brotheras wild plan, leading him on a twisted path filled with unique characters and lifeas most challenging questions. Also starring Richard Dreyfuss and writer-director Nelson, Leaves of Grass merges crime drama, drug comedy and classical philosophy, as it attempts to answer one of the oldest questions in the world: What does it truly mean to be happy?
Leaves of Grass as a title, referring here to both Walt Whitman and marijuana, is indicative of this film's hybridity in regards to genre--half comedy and half brutal crime drama--and tone, which is at once irreverent and highly philosophical. Directed by Tim Blake Nelson, who also costars as the redneck pothead Bolger, Leaves of Grass is about the troubles that follow two identical twins, philosophy professor Bill Kincaid and his marijuana-growing brother Brady, both skillfully played by Edward Norton. When Brady, the man with a criminal mind but an open heart, convinces Bill to return home to their small Oklahoma town, Bill becomes inadvertently embroiled in more than either sibling can handle. While their schemes get complicated, one meets the zany women in their lives, including Daisy (Susan Sarandon), their ex-hippie mom who at a very young age has relinquished herself to a retirement home; Brady's teen sweetheart, Colleen (Melanie Lynskey); and Bill's fling, high school teacher and poet Janet (Keri Russell), who has turned her back on the rigors of New England academic life for one of catfish noodling and Whitman's poetry. Absurd plot lines make up the comedic bulk of this film, ushered along by druggie investor Pug Rothbaum (Richard Dreyfuss), who seems to exist so that clever jokes about Jews populating Tulsa, Oklahoma, can pepper this witty satire. While many shots recall Coen brothers classics like Raising Arizona, Leaves of Grass still manages to distinguish itself from its obvious influences. Hilarious sets and situations, as when Bill stumbles into Brady's black-light-poster-decorated waterbed room, give this film unique style. The strangest aspects of this movie, including its waffling between comedy and drama so that one knows not, at times, when to laugh and when to squirm, become a source of its ambition. Leaves of Grass is also well written and juggles a highly complex, almost slapstick essence with ingenuity. --Trinie Dalton
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I like Edward Norton and his characterization of two halves of the same personality diverging and reconverging seems in line with other split personality roles he's portrayed in the past (Fight Club notably).
I left the DVD impressed, in short. The movie features complex humanistic ideals that are rarely seen in most movies today. I'll save some spoilers. The movie isn't predictable, most of supporting characters are flimsy, but serviceable. Susan Sarandon and Edward Norton's characterizations are brilliant. The movie tosses the difference between Ivy League and Bumpkin in the trashcan, Brady and Bill are as different as they can be, but yet they are still identical twins. "How does a person become who they are?" The movie asks lithely.
"Leaves of Grass" doesn't stand on modern stereotypes, it doesn't make cartoonish generalizations about people, it kisses everybody gently on the forehead and vindicates the lives they have chosen. The points and lessons the movie quietly sticks in (when you aren't looking) behind the main story are the fascinating points of the movie. This movie doesn't pretend to be dumb, but it leaves the brainy points quietly for observation later. At several points in the movie, it offers an idea, misdirects your suspicion of foreshadowing or predictability and turns it backwards on you with a bitter irony welded to it. "Logan's Run" almost made C.S. Lewis work as a device in a movie, "Leaves of Grass" makes Walt Whitman work as a device.
One reviewer said this movie 'Defied Categorization' or something to that effect. Quite accurate. I wouldn't call it a comedy, but it isn't a big downer. I think it could be called a modern drama or a Greek Tragicomedy.
If you like "Boom. Bang. Big fire." type movies, you might not really appreciate "Leaves of Grass". The movie is a more mature circumspect movie that offers insight and wisdom. Well worth a watch.
Still, I liked enough that I'd like to see it again.
One more thing that bothered me a bit is that, watching this on Blu-Ray with an HDTV, the scenes where the brothers were both present were not convincing. I could tell they weren't really in the same scene and that it had been edited to make it appear that way.