For all the clever little things Nelson does here, though, his star makes the movie.
Some of the early Norton-in-the-same-frame-as-Norton shots feel inevitably artificial, but the actor cuts loose with such apparent delight—especially as the perpetually hooting and hollering Brady—that the blocking doesn't prove distracting for long.
When Leaves of Grass finally did open last month in limited release, it might have occasioned an acute case of buyer's remorse at Telepathic: The film's domestic gross stands well below the 0,000 mark.
MORE ON FALL FILMS: Benjamin Mercer: Eastwood's 'Hereafter': Matt Damon Shines, Despite Schmaltz Christopher Orr: 'The Social Network': The Thrilling Facebook Creation Myth Christopher Orr: 'Wall Street': The Crash, According to Oliver Stone This is not to suggest that Leaves of Grass arrives this week on home video with full diamond-in-the-rough status.
It's too heavy on the quirk and too crammed with frantic incident to cohere as a satisfying whole.
But this is another appealingly ambitious, unpretentiously intellectualized mash-up from writer-director Tim Blake Nelson, whose O (2001) set Othello against a backdrop of modern-day high-school basketball and whose harrowing Grey Zone (2001) considered the moral dilemmas of Auschwitz's Sonderkommandos, Jewish prisoners charged with keeping the camp's crematoria in working order.
Much less dour in mood than these other films, Leaves of Grass—which gets its title from both weed and Walt Whitman, whose barbaric yawping informs the film's shaggy free-verse structure—bears the roll-with-the-punches geniality of some of Nelson's most memorable work as a character actor (he played the outlaw rube Delmar in the Coen brothers' O Brother, Where Art Thou? Nelson, who also performs in Leaves of Grass in a sidekick role, begins his new film with rather by-the-numbers madcap comic scenes of mistaken identity and fish-out-of-water incongruities before spiraling outward into altogether less-predictable territory.