Stuffy Professor Bill Kincaid (Norton) lives his life in the world of academia, specifically classical philosophy. So it’s perhaps no surprise that he no longer talks to his identical twin brother Brady (also played by Norton) who makes a living growing weed in their home town in rural Oklahoma. So it takes a lie of colossal proportions for Brady to get his brother to visit so that he can lure him into a plot which uses their likeness to create an alibi for a far greater crime than selling pot.
Written and directed by Tim Blake Nelson Leaves of Grass is a somewhat peculiar confection. It has a light tone and some amusing dialogue and characters but also some brutal and bloody violence, which conceptually is at times a slightly difficult combination to accept. It’s perhaps not surprise then that Nelson is most well-known for his role in the Coen Brothers’ O Brother Where Art Thou, as this has a similar feel to films such as Fargo and Burn After Reading.
It’s less quirky than either of those and possibly as a consequence doesn’t work quite as well but nevertheless on the whole manages to be engaging. The ever-reliable Edward Norton plays both, very different roles with his usual ease and Nelson plays his part as Brady’s right-hand man with quiet assurance. The marquee names of Dreyfus and Sarandon are fine but are mere cameos, while Keri Russell (who starred in the underrated Waitress) is a calming presence in an often chaotic world and made me wonder why we don’t see her more often.
So while Leaves of Grass is by no means easy to categorise, this is no bad thing – after all, there are way too many clichéd films being made all the time and so such individualism should be applauded. On the other hand, its very quirkiness is more than likely going to mean it finds only a fairly small audience. But those who do take a chance on something a bit different may just find themselves rewarded.
EXTRAS ★★ A tale of two brothers – The making of Leaves of Grass (11:39).