What's better than one Edward Norton in a movie? Two of him! In the dark comedy/crime thriller Leaves of Grass, Edward Norton stars alongside Edward Norton in Leaves of Grass, about a collegiate professor and his white trash, drug dealing identical brother who get mixed up in some bad things. In addition to Norton, the movie also features Keri Russell, Susan Sarandon, Richard Dreyfuss and writer/director Tim Blake Nelson.
Leaves of Grass follows Bill Kincaid (Norton), a classics professor at Brown University, who returns home following the alleged death of his brother Brady (again Norton). Bill quickly discovers that Brady's death is wildly exaggerated and that he's actually wanted by his brother to participate in a crazy scheme involving drugs, theft and even murder.
Interestingly, despite the star-studded cast and easy-to-follow story, Leaves of Grass never received much of a theatrical release in the United States. Oftentimes that means the movie is a disaster, but sometimes it's a result of bad planning, scheduling or a stupid studio executive; thankfully, Leaves of Grass falls into the latter category.
There's nothing spectacular about Leaves of Grass. In fact, aside from Norton's dual performances, it's very ordinary. But it's a movie that could have easily earned $20 to $30 million at the box office rather than $20,000 and a piddling debut on DVD. It has some funny parts and a fast-paced, entertaining plot, but fails to develop its supporting characters and the central story adequately. The premise is fun, but the movie falls apart in the third act, primarily because the most interesting storylines aren't fleshed out to an adequate degree.
Nelson had several directions to go. He could have focused on developing the relationship between Bill and Brady, or on Bill's fledgling relationship with Janet (Russell), or on the crime elements of the story. As is, Nelson tries to tackle all three equally, meaning all three storylines are underdeveloped. The crime story is especially underwhelming, the climax not at all satisfying.
Still, Leaves of Grass is a decent fans that will appeal to Edward Norton fans. His performance as Brady is especially fun to see, harkening back to some of his earlier, wilder roles. The exchanges between he and himself are the best parts of the movie. Don't go out of your way to see Leaves of Grass, but there are worse ways to spend an hour and a half.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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