Leaves of Grass (2009) is one of those quirky juxtaposed jumbles that actually manages to be funny, tragic, philosophical, and charming at the same time. Writer/director/actor Tim Blake Nelson pulls off what is clearly a labour of love with a sensibility all his own.
The Ivy League professor Bill Kincaid (Edward Norton) goes home to Little Dixie, Oklahoma after having been informed that his twin brother Brady (Edward Norton) has been killed. It's obvious that Bill really isn't all that keen on the idea. He has worked hard at distancing himself from his humble beginnings and his complicated family and is on his way to a successful career with an offer to teach philosophy at Harvard. As it turns out, Brady has gotten himself into trouble with a rival drug dealer. The twins Bill and Brady have chosen very different paths in life, as you might deduce from that alone.
Things get more involved from there on out. Bill and Brady's mother, Daisy Kincaid, played by the lovely and talented Susan Sarandon, has checked herself into an old folks' home, despite being far too young to go that route. It's also obvious that Brady's interest in perfecting his method for growing top quality weed (yes, that is the reference to grass here) has been inspired by his hippie mother. Brady's best friend Bolger (Tim Blake Nelson) meets Bill at the airport and drives him back to Bill's place via a local store where they get into an altercation with two local thugs. It's not until they arrive at Brady's place that Brady actually makes an appearance and it turns out that the rumours of his demise were greatly exaggerated. Brady needs Bill to guarantee that he has a solid alibi when he goes to confront the rival dealer Rug Rothbaum (Richard Dreyfuss).
The main crux of the story is all about home and family, and it is in those moments that the piece really shines, like with the beautifully played scene between Daisy and Bill where you get to see what it was that drove Bill away from home in the first place. Underpinning it all there is a deeply philosophical strain, something that shows the blatant intelligence of the characters as well as the writing. The love interest for Bill is a local teacher/poet Janet (Keri Russell) who quotes Whitman while gutting a catfish.