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Leaves of Grass – Starz Denver Film Festival – SXSW 2010

Leaves of Grass (Tim Blake Nelson) – Starz Denver Film Festival and SXSW 2010

Edward Norton has been one of my favorite actors for some time, but I was a bit dismayed when he took the role of Bruce Banner in “The Incredible Hulk” last year (as I was when I learned he was dating Courtney Love some years ago, “WTF? That train wreck?!”). It just didn’t seem befitting an actor that had boggled our minds in “American History X” and “Fight Club,” which is celebrating its 10th anniversary.

Not that he needs to redeem himself for his green scenes, but Norton has done that and more as the lead in “Leaves of Grass,” a film that portrays two sides of the coin, two ways one’s life could unfold, the separate but alike personalities of twins both played by Norton.


This dual role things is nothing new. Patty Duke took it around the block a few times back in the early ‘60s. Norton himself pulled it off brilliantly in “Primal Fear.” But in “Leaves of Grass” Norton plays each personality so distinctly and seamlessly, even in the side-by-side scenes, you forget there’s really only one actor on the screen.

As the older brother by a few minutes, Bill Kincaid has shed all remnants of his Dixie, Oklahoma upbringing, including his family and his accent badge. He’s pursued an education, rising to the level of teaching others as an Ivy League professor. While teaching philosophy, he preaches, of sorts, that we as human beings need rules to live by in order to thrive and have any sense of happiness; any sense of well-being. This is obviously his personal mantra, one that has led him to this place of higher learning, where he’s admired and even wooed by Harvard University’s Law School.

Back home, his twin brother Brady is on the other side of the coin, falling closer to following their father’s footsteps, a path that will end up either in death or in jail, according to his sixties hippie mom, played by Susan Sarandon.

The twin men have indeed inherited some of their father’s traits; mainly his high level of intelligence. One has chosen to use it within the world of higher education, the other, to build a highly intricate hydroponic marijuana farm that grows the finest of crops.

Yes, Brady could have easily become a renowned science professor along side his brother. Instead, he’s at home in Oklahoma scheming to keep himself and his business alive.

He misses his brother. Follows his career article by article. He’d like to see Bill again, because he indeed missed their time together. But he’d also like Bill to help him play the switcharoo game they once mastered as kids. But this time it’s an adult game of alibi.

The only way, as their mom states, that Bill would ever set foot back in Dixie is if someone died. That’s when Bill gets a call that indeed, Brady has met his fate by a bow and arrow, something Bill shrugs off as a common occurrence in his home state, so he’s on the plane back home. After learning that his brother is actually alive, he’s ready to turn heel and get back on the plane. But Brady talks him into staying for just the weekend, and that’s all the time it takes for the story to suck you in.

Tulsa-born writer/director Tim Blake Nelson no doubt tapped into his own personal history of growing up in the state, taking opportunities to poke fun at Oklahoma, at its culture along with the lifestyle of a teenager growing up in the ‘70s (wait for it moment…the room with the black light posters and waterbed. Awesome.) Or even state’s history of bigotry and racism.

There are a number of comedic moments in the film, one being the highly inquisitive passenger next to him who asks why he’s going to Tulsa, since most people go there for a reason, like to take care of family business or a death in the family, not just to visit. The way that Nelson ties that character, one that seemed to be a side note, back in was unexpected, especially considering his role in the fate of the twin men.

While this is by no means a family film, it is a film about family. And about one’s own awareness of self. Even if you dress yourself up with a different way of living, change your zip code and the way you speak, you never really escape your roots.

“Leaves of Grass” is schedule to appear in theaters on Christmas Day.

A new showing has been added for Friday, November 20 at 9:15pm at the Starz Denver Filmcenter. It will also screen at SXSW Film 2010.

For more information on the schedule and all the wonderful films showing from November 12 through November 22, go to


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