Iden­ti­cal twins out for re­venge

Los Angeles Times - - Movies - Gary Gold­stein

Ed­ward Nor­ton turns in not just one but two ter­rific per­for­mances in “Leaves of Grass,” an off­beat thriller that is deep­ened — rather than de­railed — by its tricky shift from darkly funny to just plain dark. Writer-di­rec­tor Tim Blake Nel­son mas­ter­fully weaves an ar­ray of quirky char­ac­ters, com­pet­ing themes and var­i­ous story strands into a highly en­joy­able, sur­pris­ingly emo­tional tale of fam­ily and re­demp­tion.

Nor­ton stars as Bill and Brady Kin­caid, es­tranged iden­ti­cal twins who re­unite af­ter scruffy pot grower Brady, aided by loyal side­kick Bol­ger (Nel­son), lures but­toned-up, Brown Uni­ver­sity clas­sics pro­fes­sor Bill back to their Ok­la­homa home­town to se­cretly help him take on a prob­lem­atic Tulsa drug lord (Richard Drey­fuss, mem­o­rable). Though ap­palled by his charm­ingly sketchy brother’s bald-faced ma­nip­u­la­tions, Bill reim­merses him­self in the back­wa­ter world he es­caped for more in­tel­lec­tual pas­tures, re­luc­tantly re­con­nect­ing with the wildly dif­fer­ent — yet maybe not so dif­fer­ent — Brady and their ec­cen­tric mother (well-played by Su­san Saran­don), while sidling up to a lovely lo­cal high school teacher (Keri Rus­sell) who’s as com­fort­able gut­ting a cat­fish as she is recit­ing po­etry.

Brady’s score-set­tling scheme takes a num­ber of ef­fec­tive if vi­o­lent, Coen-broth­ers-like twists and turns, while sub­plots in­volv­ing a love struck col­lege stu­dent (Lucy DeVito) and a des­per­ate or­tho­don­tist (Josh Pais, hi­lar­i­ous) add to the well-jug­gled com­pli­ca­tions.

cal­en­dar@latimes.com

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