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Friday, Apr. 29, 2016

Norton, Dreyfuss delight in 'Leaves of Grass'

Thursday, October 14, 2010

It's wonderful to find a gem that flies under the radar and exceeds every expectation. Edward Norton stars in Tim Blake Nelson's "Leaves of Grass," a film that doesn't do anything great, but everything well.

Norton stars as twin brothers Bill and Brady Kincaid, brothers who have taken drastically different paths in their life. Bill is a professor of philosophy, while Brady is an entrepreneur whose goods are of an illegal nature.

When drug supplier Pug Rothbaum (Richard Dreyfuss) wants Brady to expand his business into non-natural substances, Brady makes a stand and refuses. The problem is Pug fronted him money to build his grow house and now he is ready to collect the debt.

At the same time, Bill is on the fast track for a new job at Harvard, but when he received a phone call informing him that his brother has been killed by a crossbow -- yes a crossbow -- he prepares to return to the town and a life he's tried so hard to forget.

Once he arrives, he finds his brother has been "miraculously resurrected" and needs his help to get out the jam with Pug. He decides to stay the weekend after being introduced to Janet (Keri Russell).

Soon it's revealed Brady and his dimwitted but big-hearted best bud Bolger (Nelson) want Bill to stay in Little Dixie while the duo heads north to Tulsa to confront Pug about their debt. The one stumbling block is Bill will have to visit his mother (Susan Sarandon), a woman he's not seen in 12 years and wants to keep it that way.

Things go bad with Brady and Bolger's meeting and that's when things begin to fall apart. Now not only is Brady's way of life in jeopardy, but so is Bill's, as he receives a call informing him that he's been implicated in an alleged seduction of a student.

Making matters worse, a deranged and desperate orthodontist (Josh Pais) puts the pieces together and threatens to inform the police of what happened in Tulsa.

As the events transpire and a brother is lost, a man is redeemed and they all learn what it takes to be truly happy.

Nelson shows some real skill as a writer and director. He's impressed with "Eye of God" and now "Leaves," and I can't wait to see what he tackles next. His turn as Bolger is also heartfelt and powerful. Dreyfuss is also a delight, giving an unexpected turn as an ultra religious drug supplier.

Russell also gives a powerful performance as the down-home intellectual beauty that quotes Walt Whitman as she guts a catfish she just caught by noodling. I'll admit, I've harbored a crush on Russell since her "Felicity" days, and "Leaves" reaffirms how good of an actress she is.

But the star of this movie is without a doubt Norton. It's a vehicle custom-made for him and he doesn't disappoint. His character interaction with himself is amazing. He has a major scene toward the end of the flick, but for the most part, his performance is understated throughout the film, but no less commanding.

Also keep an eye out for Pais's hilarious ambush toward the end of the film. One of the best tantrums I've seen in a long time.

The disc has a great commentary track with Nelson and Norton, a "Making of" featurette and a trailer for the film.

Final Cut: Nelson once again shows he is a major talent behind the camera as well as in front. Norton, Russell and Dreyfuss deliver delightfully significant performances in the best dark comedy of the year.

4.5 out of 5 stars

Leaves of Grass

Starring -- Edward Norton, Keri Russell, Tim Blake Nelson, Susan Sarandon, Richard Dreyfuss

Director: Tim Blake Nelson

Writer: Tim Black Nelson

Available now on DVD from First Look Studios