A movie about, uh, leaves, and the late great Dick Clark in the kind of role you can't imagine him playing. Plus, topless zombies.
It's all about mind-altering substances today at the video store. And who doesn't like to have their mind altered every now and again?
If you're in the mood for more Edward Norton than one movie should be able to handle: "Leaves of Grass" (2010, Tim Blake Nelson)
Midway through Tim Blake Nelson's rural comic thriller "Leaves of Grass," Edward Norton starts talking about parallel lines. As he talks his way through to the larger point he's struggling to express, it becomes clear that this is meant as a complement to the opening scene, wherein Edward Norton gives a lecture on Socrates. Thing is, they aren't the same Edward Norton. He's playing twins here — intellectual philosophy professor Billy and haze-brained pot-grower extraordinaire Brady — and there's a lot of little bits like that one, meant to emphasize their sameness underneath the surface differences. It'd be precious if it weren't so amusing, and a lot of the credit to the successful parts of this film come down to Norton. It's not often he gets to cut loose and indulge his inner goofball, and he's clearly relishing the opportunity to do so in his portrayal of Brady. With a long Okie drawl, a weed-fueled devil-may-care attitude and perpetually narrowed eyes, Brady is the kind of guy who's easy to underestimate, much like his reserved & tightly-wound brother is the kind of guy who would do the underestimating.
If only the story didn't let the rest of the film down. Fate and coincidence are well and good, but there's only so far you can push that until things start to feel jury-rigged. Around the time neurotic dentist Ken (Josh Pais, in a spastically misjudged performance) becomes integral to the proceedings, "Leaves of Grass" starts to falter. "I never take accidental encounters for granted," says Ken, and it's that sense of inorganic ordainment that sends the plot into a grimly deterministic death spiral — like a leftover from a previous draft that Nelson was never quite able to shed. But even if the script gives out there are still enough incidental pleasures in "Leaves of Grass" — the astonished look on Billy's face as Brady breaks down the details of his hydroponic system, or the hard swallow and sick smile Brady affects as he bids his brother good night with a quiet, "I'm just glad you're here, Billy" — to make it worthwhile viewing. Plus, where else are you going to see Keri Russell go catfish noodling? ("Leaves of Grass" expires from Instant on April 30th.)