Bright Leaves
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Film diarist Ross McElwee (Sherman's March) offers another personal examination of Southern history and life with Bright Leaves, a documentary tracing his own connection to North Carolina and its tobacco industry. McElwee is drawn to the subject after meeting his second cousin John, a film memorabilia collector, who shows McElwee an old Warner Bros. film from 1950, Bright Leaf, in which Gary Cooper stars (alongside Patricia Neal and Lauren Bacall) as a tobacco magnate who builds himself up from nothing only to lose everything to a rich, powerful, and ruthless Southern gentleman. The film… More

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Rotten Tomatoes Score: 86%

Critic Reviews from Rotten Tomatoes

"Bright Leaves is not the kind of film that would use in its anti-smoking campaign."
‑ Manuel Mendoza, Dallas Morning News
"Bright Leaves is a beguiling film. Watching it is like spending time with an old, somewhat chatty but endearing friend."
‑ Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune
"Classic McElwee blending together the personal and the political in his native North Carolina, to which he something of the same ambivalent relation that Faulkner, another son of the South, had to Mississippi."
‑ Louis Proyect,
"Ross McElwee ambles through one tobacco-related subject after another... it's too scattered all over the place to be truly informative."
‑ Cherryl Dawson and Leigh Ann Palone,
"Twin concerns of family and place collide perfectly in McElwee's first film in seven years."
‑ Marc Mohan, Oregonian
"A gently provocative film diary about tobacco and its mixed legacy."
‑ Carrie Rickey, Philadelphia Inquirer
"It's a meandering visit by a curious man with a quiet sense of humor."
‑ Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times
"This is a highly personal journey, reminiscent of a smart, sardonic personal essay you might find in Harper's magazine or a quirky, savvy radio piece on NPR's 'This American Life.'"
‑ Ron Reed, Christianity Today
"A meandering riff on the dangerous allure of smoking, and more interestingly a meditation on the way motion pictures can preserve our life experiences-- but only to a point."
‑ Sean Burns, Philadelphia Weekly
"Ross McElwee's movies have the rhythms of a person who is writing -- considering this possibility, rejecting that one and ultimately making a decision."
‑ Chris Hewitt (St. Paul), St. Paul Pioneer Press
"McElwee's best film since Sherman's March."
‑ Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader
"McElwee's autobiographical films ... are leisurely jaunts with a gentle humor that never mocks his subjects."
‑ Colin Covert, Minneapolis Star Tribune
"Touches on serious matters with a sly, self-deprecating sense of humor that makes receiving its messages a pleasure rather than a chore."
‑ Frank Swietek, One Guy's Opinion
"The filmmaker narrates with droll, front-porch wit, and eases his way into the viewer's heart by sharing a hefty portion of his own."
‑ Phil Villarreal, Arizona Daily Star
"Bright Leaves mixes social conscience with personal journey in an even balance."
‑ Robin Clifford, Reeling Reviews
More reviews for Bright Leaves on Rotten Tomatoes