Saturday, October 23, 2010

Leaves of Grass: Grade B


Leaves of Grass (2009)

Edward Norton, Keri Russell, Tim Blake Nelson, Richard Dreyfuss, Susan Sarandon. Writer-Director Tim Blake Nelson.

Edward Norton displays his remarkable talent by playing twin brothers, one a professor of philosophy at a Northern university, the other a pot-growing redneck in Oklahoma. The professor escaped his steamy southern hometown and his eccentric (if not crazy) brother and mother (Sarandon) years ago, and has made a name for himself, when he is tricked by a false report of his brother’s death into returning to “Daisyville” or whatever the town’s name was. But his brother is alive and wants the prof to show himself to the locals to provide an alibi while he, the pot-grower is in Tulsa dealing with a problematic drug lord (Dreyfuss). Needless to say, the plan does not go well and disaster ensues.

The story is not believable, and the characters unconvincing. For example, the redneck brother convinces the professor to suck on a bong, his first day there, and he agrees. Believable? Not to me. Likewise the prof agrees to the wacky impersonation scheme because, well, because I don’t know why. Then he falls in love, and who wouldn't, with an enigmatic teacher (Russell) because she quotes Walt Whitman. Then a random orthodontist suddenly turns sleuth, discovers the impersonation, and buys a gun to threaten the brothers, for reasons never made clear. Right: an orthodontist would do that. It’s just bad writing.

The dialog is stilted and unimaginative ( “I can’t believe I’m doing this”). There are some redeeming story virtues, such as having the two brothers use distinct vocabularies and grammatical constructions (and accents, too, of course). There are some really funny lines, though far too few, and all the performances are strong, despite the weak material.

Cinematography is traditional and unobtrusive. Music is twangy Okie tunes, presumably genuine, but they drove me up the wall, forcing emergency >>FF. Pacing is unreliable, with lots of sagging dead space, such as cars and trucks driving around (so the dreadful songs could play).

Despite these serious flaws, I recommend the movie just because Norton is so unbelievably good.

No comments:

Post a Comment