Monday, May 02, 2011

"Leaves of Grass" (2010) - Movie Review

Odd needs a definition after seeing “Leaves of Grass”. A film that never comes under any convention and takes a ride that goes with total unpredictability at every step of its way and comes out with a mystique of its own. What did Edward Norton see when he read the script written by director Tim Blake Nelson? Is it the in depth philosophical references and the esoteric nature of Bill Kincaid or is it the simplicity in the pot headed Brady Kincaid who is as much as brilliant as his brother succumbing to the land he grew up? How could you approach a subject like this and produce a performance out of it? I believe that is where Edward Norton distinguishes himself in taking odd films in odd characters and rolls on with it. You might not possibly fall in love with it but you know you have never seen anything like this before.

Bill Kincaid and Brady Kincaid are identical twins living separate lives. Bill is a professor in philosophy and has a promising career awaiting in Harvard law school to frame his own course and content. What a pleasurable post it would be for a professor? Brady is living in Little Dixie, Oklahoma and has built the most sophisticated and pure form of modern agriculture through hydroponics for growing weed. He built up a hefty amount of debt from a drug lord (Richard Dreyfuss) in the process and he is given an option to either pay back or expand the business, neither of which he does not want to do. This brings to the turn of events to use his brother as a ridiculous alibi for his crazy plan.

There is a plot and there is no plot. There is significance and there is insignificance to its details. There is a poetry and garbage. There is confused mix of everything and you have no idea what you are getting into. The treatment of the material is organic. It has a simple set up and ordinary people behaving in their defined ordinary manner. Only here it is a pot headed grower is in his out of mind attempt to get out of this fix as he is expecting a baby. Seeing Billy and Brady you can say how each of them opted out to be who they wanted. Billy knew too much in the early high school years to get out of this place and be consumed by its eccentricity. Brady embraced it with full heart and is left with debt and troubles. Their mother (Susan Sarandon) brought them up influenced by the culture of 60s. Talk about dysfunctional family and you get a true to the bone enactment out here.

Billy is the sophisticated and feared professor. He is lured back to Oklahoma only to find out he is the coin in his brother’s plan. He meets a beautiful and smart woman Janet (Keri Russell) from his child hood and is charmed by her erudite in literature and philosophy. His life before this film would have been solid teaching with student crushing over his handsomeness and not able to afford any time for himself. Here he is forced to smoke pot and let loose to not dwell on those conventional drug trip but to let Janet to him. Despite the fear of his home town taking his life away, he is liberated and free in the tricky situation he was tricked in.

Brady is the other side of the coin and he is every bit of Billy in mind and soul but is completely messed up in making decisions. He loves his brother and his family. He takes life at its face value and takes it as it was given to him. His buddy Bolger (Tim Blake Nelson) is loyal and this duo work in a weird sense of rhythm and understanding. They are what they are and nothing else. They are regular humans and every one is in their sanity but the choices and decisions define the uniqueness of failure and success. You would know which part Brady is.

I have so many questions for Tim Blake Nelson on what made him to write and direct this film. Resembling much of Coen brothers storytelling it still goes way away from them. Coen brothers in their films have a distant agenda of something. Either the mood or the way of life or simply the characters dissection in a surgical manner becomes their backbone. In “Leaves of Grass” it wanders with no purpose and here and there it lays the seeds of thoughts and profound realizations. It talks religion, god, existentialism, narcism, greed, desperation, betrayal, violence, hatred, comedy, tragedy, romance and everything in between.

The experience of watching “Leaves of Grass” is nothing short of weird and unique. It invites the viewer in the assumption of simple plot of mix up and then becomes into this monster of a chaos. People begin to do things unexpectedly expected and violence erupts from unknown corner. Tragedy cruises through with ease and all of a sudden you have no idea what you are watching. It might either irritate and confuse its audience or beckon for another viewing like this reviewer. The undertone of this film is subtle in unexplainable ways and I cannot possibly explain what made me like this film and what will make you not like this film. I think that is the beauty of this picture that stands there as a philosophical statement leaving its readers in a little confused state. It might be a germination that grows up into an epiphany or simply rot in the ground. Regardless, you will be infected.

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