Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Leaves of Grass (2009)

To call Tim Blake Nelson's Leaves of Grass a "serio-comedy" touches only the surface of a seriously funny movie. It asks Big Questions from diametrically opposed positions--passionate/impulsive and rational/controlled--and accepts the merits of both sides, resulting in what might be a third view--and I won't bore you with my vague conclusions. Instead, let me point out one of the movie's great treats: two Edward Nortons, the actor playing twins--both geniuses, one a philosophy prof, the other a hydroponic pot-growing wizard. Their lives collide following the prof's self-imposed estrangement from his family--including Susan Sarandon doing what she does so well: playing crazy, just enough to keep her distance from the real world while understanding it all too well. His rocky (and that's putting it mildly) road home makes for what can only be described as a screwball tragedy--maybe.

The writer-director behind this bifurcated plan is Tim Blake Nelson, a pitch-perfect character actor--as Delmar in O Brother, Where Art Thou?, delivering one of the great lines of the movies: "Them syreens did this to Pete. They loved him up and turned him into a horny toad"; and the enigmatically pleasant Gideon in Minority Report--among other welcome appearances. We even have the treat of his turn as Bolger, the pot-dealing twin's partner, drawing out his Oklahoma accent like a nice fishing-rod he'd like to show you--got it when he was a boy and it's still in good shape. Nelson is a gifted artist, and his direction matches the swerving tone of Leaves of Grass step by reckless step.

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