The “Grass” Is Always Greener

Leaves of Grass
Starring: Edward Norton, Tim Blake Nelson, Keri Russell, Susan Sarandon, Richard Dreyfuss
Director: Tim Blake Nelson
First Look Pictures
Rated R for violence, pervasive language, and drug content

There are those in the film community that believe a movie should conform to a specific genre—a comedy should make you laugh, a horror should scare you, and an action should thrill you. But then there are those who buck the norm, blending genres, or even leaving the genre vague. Leaves of Grass from writer-director-actor Tim Blake Nelson falls into the latter ideology. It is at times dramatic and poignant, then comedic and farcical, and even at times bloody and thrilling. In a sense, Leaves of Grass has no genre. It is like life, where anything and everything can and does happen.

Edward Norton stars in the dual roles of identical twins Bill and Brady Kincaid. While many twins share similarities, these twins share mainly differences. Bill is a respected collegiate classical philosophy professor, frequently thought of as the leading scholar in his field. Brady grows and sells marijuana, and leads a less than reputable life. Right as everything seems to be going perfectly in Bill’s life, Brady lures him back home to Oklahoma under false pretenses. Much to Bill’s chagrin, he’s forced back into a life he abandoned to help in his brother’s scheme against a local drug lord (Richard Dreyfus). Bill agrees to help Brady only when he realizes Brady is serious about trying to leave the drug business to support his pregnant girlfriend (Melanie Lynskey). Bill also meets one of Brady’s friends, Janet (Keri Russell), a beautiful high school poetry teacher. As he struggles to help Brady become an honest man, he grows closer to Janet, and begins to realize that maybe returning home isn’t so bad after all.

It is a shame that Edward Norton has notoriously made a name for himself as one of Hollywood’s hardest actors to work with. He’s infamously demanded a significant amount of creative control in his films, often alienating writers, directors, and even studios. Despite this reputation, Edward Norton continues to prove he is one of cinema’s finest actors. Leaves of Grass is no exception. Norton completely immerses himself into both Bill and Brady. The scenes where appears on camera simultaneously as Bill and Brady are nothing short of brilliant. Norton’s performances are so convincing and engrossing that it’s easy to forget that special effects were in play to accomplish the dual roles.

The supporting cast also shines in this movie, most notably from writer-director-actor Tim Blake Nelson. He is perfect as Bolger, the slack-jawed best friend and business partner of Brady, a role he’s been accustomed to in the past in the film like “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” He offers great comedic relief to the more dramatic and thrilling scenes. Keri Russell as Janet continues her streak of adorable love interest. Her presence always lights up the scene. As Janet, she pulls Bill out of his steadfast mindset, and opens him up to new worlds and ideas. Cameo performances by Susan Sarandon and Richard Dreyfus also bring emotional and suspenseful elements to this thoughtfully developed story.

When all is said and done, Leaves of Grass is really a story about family. Your family, for better or for worse, is sometimes all you have, and as Bill learns, he better make the most of it. Leaves of Grass is a quirky and provocative indie film that deserved to be seen by more people during its theatrical run. Film critics and film festivals everywhere have hailed the merits of the film. Now is your chance to see what they’re talking about. Leaves of Grass is now available to rent and own in SD, HD, and HDX.

DID YOU KNOW?

Writer-director Tim Blake Nelson only had Edward Norton in mind for Bill and Brady when he was writing the script, so much so that had Norton turned down the roles, he felt like he couldn’t have moved forward with the film. However, Norton was so impressed with the script that he actively pursued the part, to the point that he accepted a salary of half of what he normally makes.