Volume 20, Number 40 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | September 22 - 28, 2010
Koch on Film
BY ED KOCH
“Leaves of Grass” (-)
I’ve been a big fan of Edward Norton ever since seeing “Primal Fear” — in which he played a young man accused of murder. He brilliantly portrayed the character who appeared to have a myriad of personalities (some good and at least one bad).
The story involves the good twin, Bill (Edward Norton), a professor of ancient Roman and Greek civilizations. We first meet him in his Brown University classroom, and shortly thereafter in his office — where he is sexually molested by an aggressive female student.
Bill receives a call informing him that his twin brother, Brady (also played by Norton), has been murdered. He returns to the town where he was raised, (Little Dixie, Oklahoma) to attend his brother’s funeral. When he arrives, he learns that Brady is not dead. Bill has been lured home to see his mother, Daisy (Susan Sarandon), from whom he has been estranged, and to act as a double and establish an alibi for his twin brother.
Brady, who grows large quantities of high-grade marijuana in his home with the aid of special heaters, has borrowed money from Pug Rothbaum (Richard Dreyfuss), a leader in the Jewish community and synagogue. Pug, who is also a drug dealer, wants Brady to return the $200,000 he borrowed from him to finance his marijuana installation.
Norton plays both roles very well. Bill as an educated, sophisticated and well-spoken young man — and Brady, as a redneck in every way. Sarandon is totally wasted in a role that doesn’t allow her to exhibit a range of emotions. The performances of the other actors, including Tim Blake Nelson, Kerry Russell and Richard Dreyfuss, are all professionally executed.
The picture, which I saw at the Village East Cinema, contains a lot of violence — as much as a movie by Sam Peckinpah (master of violent films). There is even a killing by an English crossbow. When it ended, the audience — made up primarily of people in their 20s and 30s — began to cheer. Ed Norton and Tim Blake Nelson, the director, appeared after the movie to answer questions from the audience.
I was never really caught up in the film, but that may be because I’m not in my 20s or 30s. Norton fans will undoubtedly want to see the movie, which isn’t bad — but it’s not good enough to recommend, particularly in this fall season when better movies are being released.
Henry Stern said: “I enjoyed the movie, except by the time it ended, most of the cast had been killed off. However, they were clean deaths, and the victims were not models of rectitude. The part I did not like was the anti-Semitism in the film. Three major characters were Jews: a drug kingpin, a nosy murderous whiner and a Monica Lewinsky-type who appears early in the film. In a fight for his life, the drug dealer grabs a menorah to use as a weapon. There is one good Jew, a wise female rabbi. When I raised the issue at the question period, the writer-director, Tim Blake Nelson, said that he himself was a Jew from Oklahoma. It is said that the Jews are their own worst enemies. That is not literally true, but there is something to it.”
Rated R. 105 minutes.
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