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The Auteurs Daily: Toronto. Leaves of Grass and Youth in Revolt

The Auteurs DailyLeaves of Grass

"In Leaves of Grass, Edward Norton plays classically dissimilar twin brothers - Brady is id, Bill is superego - who come together after a long stretch of estrangement," writes Karina Longworth at indieWIRE. "Norton's dual characterization and Tim Blake Nelson's slight-of-hand staging is more seamless and convincing than the similar tricks employed by actor Michael Cera and director Miguel Arteta in Toronto premiere Youth in Revolt, but even with scads of overwritten philosophically-minded dialogue, Grass can't compete with the exploration of the split self offered by Sam Rockwell and Duncan Jones in the Sundance hit/summer sleeper Moon. With mixed results, the film combines two tones as superficially divergent as the brothers themselves: light pot-infused class comedy, and violent pulp."

"Maybe Tim Blake Nelson just got tired to being so serious," suggests Kirk Honeycutt in the Hollywood Reporter. "The actor and writer, whose previous films as a director have questioned the existence of God (Eye of God), retold Othello in a high school setting (O) and examined the consciences of Jews who worked with their oppressors in Nazi concentration camps (The Grey Zone), goes absolutely bonkers in Leaves of Grass. It is so outrageous with its ethnic caricatures, hokey plot and twin-brother mix-ups that you know the whole thing is a lark. And that's well before a crazed orthodontist shows up, waving a gun."

"The pic is curiously reminiscent of Stephen Gyllenhaal's 1998's Homegrown," finds Dennis Harvey in Variety, "not only because it places another starry cast in the same basic setting, but because its mix of hayseed stoner hijinks, no-joke violence, family drama and other elements likewise fails to cohere in either script or execution. Though it, too, eventually becomes a bit of a mess, Leaves is the better film, thanks to an opening reel in which Norton as straight man finds an ideal comedy partner in Norton as goofus."

"Nelson has finessed a multi-faceted and often pricelessly funny black comedy here, showcasing Norton's chameleon-like gifts as he darts between a groomed classics professor and the pot-growing brother who lures him into hazardous waters," writes Jan Stuart in Screen.

The film "rose like a Phoenix from the ashes of another project," notes Anne Thompson, who tells the story at indieWIRE.

Stephen Saito talks with Norton and Nelson for IFC.

Youth in Revolt

"The persistent (and largely accurate) criticism of actor Michael Cera is that he's bound by his shtick: the slack expression, the mumbled asides, the self-doubt, etc." Noel Murray at the AV Club: "In the quirky teen comedy Youth in Revolt, Cera gets to stretch a bit, playing both a sensitive, bookish boy (a fan of foreign films and Frank Sinatra) and his ice-cool 'let's fuck shit up' alter-ego."

"An Arrested Development-age Michael Cera would have been perfect for Youth in Revolt, being the firsthand adventures of sex-obsessed 14-year-old Nick Twisp," writes Peter Debrugge in Variety, "but sometimes the material is so right for an older star (like Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate), you just have to accept the stretch. From Superbad to Juno, Cera's certainly perfected his socially awkward, virginity-averse adolescent shtick, and while Youth doesn't echo the deeper themes of those pics, Cera and his gifted comic co-stars elevate the mediocre source material into a semi-iconic coming-of-age story."

"CD Payne's epic, 499-page novel is to teenage angst what the bible is to Christianity," declares Erik Davis at Cinematical, "and it's always sort of reminded me of what a sequel to The Catcher in the Rye might look like if it was set in modern-day (if somewhat outdated) Oakland - and featured a 14-year-old Frank Sinatra fanatic who would literally destroy an entire city if it meant winning over the girl of his dreams."

"No stranger to eccentric characters, director Miguel Arteta (Chuck & Buck, The Good Girl) has infused the picaresque tale with headlong drive and amused outrage," writes Sheri Linden in the Hollywood Reporter. "The script by Gustin Nash (whose Charlie Bartlett presented the worldview of another disaffected hyperintelligent teen) condenses 500 pages of incident-packed narrative, shucking characters and story lines and maintaining the whip-smart tone, if not entirely avoiding a surfeit of plot twists."

"Like Adventureland, the film features a brainy outcast wooing a beautiful girl who shares his refined artistic taste," writes Tim Grierson in Screen. "Calling to mind Juno, it leans heavily on a soundtrack of quirky indie-rock, and its animation interludes have the same preciousness as a similar technique used in Paper Heart. And of course, Cera's involvement with some of those titles only adds to this movie's nagging sense of déjà vu."

On that note, see Logan Hill's "Same Dude, Different Hoodie" in New York. For the New York Times' Mekado Murphy, Cera offers a 40-second response. Both of those via Missy Schwartz in Entertainment Weekly ("Personally, I'm curious to see what else the guy can do with his talents"), where she also notes that Youth in Revolt's release has been bumped to January.

Update, 9/22: Alex Billington interviews Nelson and Norton.

TIFF 09: Index; full coverage; lineup.

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