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Leaves of Grass (DVD Review)

3 Oct, 2010 By: Billy Gil

Street 10/12/10
First Look
Box Office $0.04 million
$28.98 DVD, $29.98 Blu-ray
Rated ‘R’ for violence, pervasive language, and drug content.
Stars Edward Norton, Keri Russell, Tim Blake Nelson, Richard Dreyfuss, Susan Sarandon.

Leaves of Grass, cleverly titled to reference both Walt Whitman and the “happy grass” that populates this black comedy, wonderfully explores the dichotomy between two brothers, a pothead and an intellectual, both played by Edward Norton.

Bill and Brady are different-as-can-be identical twins. Bill teaches the classics at a university and wants nothing to do with his brother, who grows pot in rural Oklahoma, or his estranged, ex-hippie mother (Susan Sarandon). However, Bill is called back home when he learns Brady has been killed.

It wouldn’t spoil much to say that Brady’s death isn’t what it seems, or that an absurdist, Coen Brothers-esque comedy of errors ensues, given the brothers’ alarmingly similar appearance (Why not? Writer/director/co-star Tim Blake Nelson famously played Delmar in the Coens’ cherished O Brother, Where Art Thou?).

But Nelson’s film also feels warmer than those by his Coen counterparts, despite some painfully violent sections. Bill’s devolution from a stuffed-shirt control freak, as aided by the lovely teacher with whom he connects over literature (Keri Russell), to someone who actually deals with life’s imperfections works because the film never feels smarmy or cheesy — it’s too smart for that. The audience identifies with Bill as the straight man, and we’re thrown for a loop every time he is.

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