As writer/director Nelson (shown at right) has made several notable films that, if they set neither the box-office nor the critical establishment aflame, were certainly worth seeing and mulling: the strange, disturbing, very well-cast-and-acted Eye of God (1997), his odd-angled Holocaust movie The Grey Zone (2001), and now the very funny and endearing, yet violent, sunshine-and-shade comedy LEAVES OF GRASS. (Nelson also directed the better-than-expected modernization of Othello, called O, also from 2001, in which Josh Hartnett essayed Iago -- to surprisingly good effect.) To my mind, everything this man puts his talent to ends up worth seeing -- often more than once.
Bette Davis could do it, why not Edward Norton (above)? The latter out-bets Bette, too -- playing (1) a somewhat uptight Ivy League scholar/professor on the fast track to fame and (2) his down-home, Oklahoma brother, who's a big-time pot grower involved with a host of shady characters. When Ivy League is conned into re-visiting his home town, Norton gets to slowly and very nicely shift the accent of the northern-based brother back to the south. The actor does everything else just about perfectly, too. You can see why he wouldn't pass up a role like this.
Susan Sarandon (below)as the twin's mom, Richard Dreyfus (above) as a prominent Jewish businessman, Melanie Lynskey as the girlfriend of the southern Norton, Keri Russell (two photos below, a standout) as the smart and feisty young woman toward whom the northern Norton feels a pull, and the writer/director himself (at bottom, left) in a prominent role as the pot-grower's best pal. (Look for a nice turn by Modern Family's Ty Burrell, too.)
Religion takes its licks here (at times the movie put me in mind of the Cohen Bros' A Serious Man), although the scene with the woman rabbi is quite lovely and benign (the women in Nelson's movies tend to be a lot smarter, deeper and more thoughtful than are the men).