Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Will 'Leaves of Grass' just blow smoke? Nope.

If you've been following along, you know Edward Norton is pulling double duty on "Leaves of Grass." The comedy recently wrapped production in Shreveport.

Norton plays two roles: Brady, the Oklahoma-based pot-grower, and his twin Bill, an Ivy League professor. Plot-wise, Bill is unknowingly drawn into Brady's scheme to bring down a local drug lord. Given these polar opposite characterizations, the conflict between Bill and Brady will likely explore the tension between chaos and control, of order and disorder.

Here's what director-writer-actor Tim Blake Nelson had to say about it: "I’m very interested in our beautiful, quintessentially human and ultimately vain attempts to control our own lives. And I wanted to write a character who was attempting to do that and succeeding pretty thoroughly, who then got railroaded."

In other words, when "Leaves of Grass" gets released in 2009, don't dismiss it as just another stoner comedy. At its nutty core, "Leaves of Grass" will be much smarter and more introspective than that.

Nelson said he created the twin characters to explore a collision of disparate philosophies. "Even though I suppose I’m an atheist, I kind of buy into the Judaic notion that we really need laws and structure, and without them there is a pretty intolerable measure of anarchy from within and without. And I think that the narrative that has been told over and over again by storytellers, and that I’m certainly borrowing for this script, is that collision of chaos and violence and improvisation, if you will, with the structured life."

From what little I know, I'm willing to bet "Leaves of Grass" will serve as a good companion piece to the Coen brothers' "The Big Lebowski." Remember the Dude? How could you not. While battling the Nihilists and struggling to keep his "chonson," he was, on a basic level, defending his right to a slackerly state of being (and seeking to punish the rug-peers). In "Leaves of Grass," the characters similarly appear to be battling, in Norton's words, the forces of entropy (while pursuing the ideal of growing the perfect bud).

This is all to say that "Leaves of Grass," if made rightly, could achieve cult status. Nelson and Norton are playing with some really cool ideas in a ridiculously fun way, and I hope the movie lives up to its potential.

Am I out of my gourd?

PHOTO: Writer/director/co-star Tim Blake Nelson on the set of “Leaves of Grass.” (Photo by Glen Wilson/Special to The Times)

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