Tuesday, November 9, 2010
Leaves of Grass (2009)
Edward Norton stars in this quirky tale centered on a respected Ivy League professor who's lured back to Oklahoma to help his equally brilliant twin brother -- who grows the world's finest hydroponic marijuana -- best a big-time pot pusher (Richard Dreyfuss). Writer-director Tim Blake Nelson co-stars in this oddball crime comedy alongside Keri Russell, Lucy DeVito, Susan Sarandon, Steve Earle and Ty Burrell.
Erudite dramedy written and directed by Nelson, with Norton handling two leading roles as identical twin brothers, starts out strong, stays interesting, but fails to pack an emotional punch even when devolving into inexplicably violent chaos. Bill is the "good" twin who left his drug-damaged family behind in Oklahoma to become a rising-star East Coast academic specializing in classical philosophy. He makes sense of the world by adhering to intellectual principles and an austere moral code. That falls apart when he gets a phone call that his equally intelligent but irresponsible drug dealing "bad" twin brother Barry has been murdered and Bill goes home to face his demons. Sarandon, as the twins' mother, Lynskey, as Barry's pregnant girlfriend, and Russell, as Bill's love interest, are charming in their small roles. Dreyfuss chews the scenery as a crime boss posing as a respectable businessman. Norton and Nelson, as Barry's buddy/partner in crime, carry the movie pretty well despite a painfully contrived plot. Too clever for its own good, the ending does close the circle but would have benefitted from editing or additional dialogue to reinforce its reflection of concepts discussed in the film's beginning. Recommended for fans of the Coen Brothers and modern film noire as an interesting diversion and hopefully a preview of more to come from Nelson.