When it comes to movies I trust Roger Ebert, it’s hard not to, he’s been reviewing films since 1966, twenty-one years before I was born. For the most part the man is usually on point and his word can make or break independent films. When I recently saw the trailer for Tim Blake Nelson’s Leaves of Grass what jumped out was Mr. Ebert’s glowing praise. “One of the year’s best,” exclaimed Ebert, “a masterpiece.” Needless to say it caught my eye.
Leaves of Grass is the most recent movie to attempt the “twin characters played by the same actor” type film. Ed Norton plays the lead characters of Bill and Brady Kincaid. Bill is a philosophy superstar professor at Brown University, and Brady’s a genius country boy who constructed a hydroponic farm of top shelf weed.
The film takes a stance on depicting “hicks” in a different light. The Kincaid brothers are from rural Oklahoma and happen to be intellectually gifted. Bill is your stereotypical brilliant college professor. Brady, who has a higher IQ than his brother, squanders his talent on making potent pot. The film breaks the label that a southern country accent equates to being an imbecile. It’s obvious director Tim Blake Nelson, who was born and raised in Tulsa before attending Brown as an undergrad, is trying prove a point here.
These “identical twin movies” are tough to execute well. It takes a certain type of actor to pull off being two completely different people in the same film. Youth in Revolt demonstrated how easily a film can be jumbled if it revolves around that concept. Michael Cera is a good actor with a talent at awkward comedic timing, but I feel the movie failed in making him believable as an alter ego. Separating the Cera persona from his past films is nearly impossible, which impeded the film from feeling authentic.
A good example of the concept is Adaptation, which succeeds on a lot of levels, one being Nicholas Cage playing Charlie and Donald Kaufman. The frustrating acting talent of Cage shines playing identical twin screenwriters, one successful and confident, the other stressed and fraught with doubt and low self esteem. It also helps that the ever-creative Spike Jonze directed the Charlie Kaufman script.
After seeing the trailer it seems Ed Norton’s performance falls more in the Nick Cage category (what’d you expect he’s Ed Norton). Watch the trailer twice, because after you get over the initial visual shock of Norton’s characters, you begin to see how believable his roles are. After reading Ebert’s review from the Toronto International Film Festival and seeing the trailer that also includes Keri Russell, Susan Sarandon, and actor/director Tim Blake Nelson I’m excited to see the finished product. Leaves of Grass will be released in theaters April 2, 2010.