Leaves of Grass (2009)

February 22, 2011 By Mike B
Movie Review

What worked?

Profound and comfortably familiar, yet still unique, Leaves of Grass is an enlightening experience. Director Tim Blake Nelson weaves an intricate character study that is highly enjoyable because of the absurd twists and turns of the story, as well as the philosophical tone the film takes. Edward Norton, playing both Bill and Brady Kincaid, performs his roles with an engaging passion. Leaves of Grass is a fresh experience about a man reconnecting with his roots and trying to make sense of the unknowable, and through his journey we have the opportunity to be lifted in more ways than one.

Tim Blake Nelson serves as director, actor and writer of this little gem, and he fills his multiple roles just fine. One can feel that this film was a labor of love by Nelson, as he allows the audience to become intimate with the protagonist. He also infuses a layer of dark comedy that sometimes catches us off guard, making the punch lines have more juice. This is a film that cannot be clearly categorized because it simply is. The unpredictability of life is shown here and it’s completely relative.

Edward Norton delivers two striking performances, proving once again that he’s one of the best of our generation. Bill and Brady are completely different characters, one an Ivy League Professor and the other a professional horticulturist and pot dealer. Norton executes the amazing trick of playing off himself so well that we forget that he plays both characters. Norton masterfully distinguishes the twin brothers, and also manages to instill life, charisma and passion respectively in each character. Needless to say, Norton’s performances are worth the ticket alone. In addition, Keri Russel projects her down-to-earth sweet girl, and it works well. Tim Blake Nelson also gives a solid performance as the loyal and kooky friend.

Leaves of Grass gives us an interesting and surprising journey of one man touching base with his roots. Besides the reconnection, philosophical tones, and the love story, there’s also murder, drugs, and failed hate crimes. The film is funny, absurd, touching and philosophical all in one superb bento box. The brain of this film pumps like a heart, and leaves us with a very much needed intellectual high.

Potential Drawbacks:

Some may see the story as a bit messy and bi-polar, since it jumps around different genres of cinema. The story itself is chaotic, and anything but linear, possibly leaving some members of the audience a bit confused and uninterested. In addition, there are several twists and turns that may cause viewers to grow a bit tired of the chaos.

Tim Blake Nelson has worked with the Coen brothers, and some of their type of humor and style is displayed through Nelson, leaving some deterred by Nelson doing an arguably poor-man’s version of a Coen brothers film.

Lastly, the film does drag on a little, and towards the end some may feel that the film overstayed its welcome.

Film Recommendation:

Waking Life
Garden State
Lonesome Jim

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