Tim Blake Nelson's "Leaves of Grass" is a funny, intricate pinwheel of a movie about a classics professor and his marijuana-growing twin. Edward Norton plays both these roles, sparking an inspired ensemble - including Nelson himself, who plays the pot farmer's partner. (Above, that's Norton, left, in his stoner role, with Nelson.) When violence erupts here, it's upsetting and uproarious: a farcical spectacle of male ambition and vanity at odds with a chaotic universe.
This wildly inventive piece of hip Americana zigs from Bill Kincaid's classroom at Brown University to a pocket of Oklahoma where the professor's brilliant twin, Brady, uses hydroponics to grow dynamite weed. Right at the start, Bill states the theme - the battle between rampant instinct and control - in an erudite lecture about Socrates. Then he spends the rest of the film hilariously embodying the conflict.
It's hard to imagine another performer pulling off Bill's reflexive, fluent self-consciousness. Norton is super at expressing Bill's superego. (Of course, to rouse this buttoned-up character's id, it helped to cast Keri Russell as a gorgeous high-school English teacher and poet who quotes Walt Whitman while she snares and guts catfish.) And as the black-sheep brother, Brady, Norton masters verbal be-bop. This movie has rhythm. It operates as a pick-me-up, even when you see it stone cold sober.