TIFF review roundup: 'Leaves of Grass'
If it seems that most of these round-up posts begin with the phrase "reviews are mixed," well, it's because they are. It's not like I'm making 'em up. But honestly, reviews ARE mixed in regard to actor-director Tim Blake Nelson's eccentric comedy "Leaves of Grass," which screened on Sept. 14 at the Toronto International Film Festival and stars Edward Norton as polar-opposite twins who reluctantly reunite while visiting their mother (Susan Sarandon). The Hollywood Reporter pulls no punches in its dismissal of the film, noting that Nelson has gone "absolutely bonkers" in his attempt to inject some humor into this oddball tale of redneck crooks, pot dealers and Jewish gangsters; the problem is that "he really doesn't know how." Ouch. Screen Daily is much kinder, citing Norton's "bravura performance" (it's not the first time he's played twins) as the key to its success. Variety splits it down the middle -- Norton's turn(s) is/are fine, but the pic is a "mixed bag of mismatched ideas" that will have trouble winning over both the mainstream and indie crowds. Same goes for Row Three -- Norton is boss, but the film "didn't bring much to the table" by way of comedy or drama. But Roger Ebert at the Chicago Sun Times took the high road, calling "Leaves" a "sweet, wacky masterpiece," and quite rightly notes the use of John Prine's "Illegal Smile" as a high point.
-- Paul Gaita
Photo: Millennium Films & Langley Films