Written and Directed By: David Gordon Green
It’s hard to tell if Prince Avalanche is sort of tedious or sort of fascinating. As far as character studies go, there’s a lot to take in and analyze here. Performance wise, Paul Rudd is as good as he’s ever been; Emile Hirsch is better than he’s ever been. But perhaps part of the reason that the film never really takes off is that it just all feels so slight.
David Gordon Green directs, and adapted the screenplay from the Icelandic film Either Way. Set in the summer of 1988, the film revolves around highway workers Alvin (Paul Rudd) and Lance (Emile Hirsch), mundanely painting road surface markings. They bicker and bond, musing about life and the women they left behind. At it’s core, this is a film about loneliness. Alvin spends the entire summer in his ‘forest of solitude’, isolating from his city life and his girlfriend Madison (Lynn Shelton, in phone voice only), whom also happens to be Lance’s sister. Lance is discontented with his ‘on the road’ life; his only company being the mellow Alvin who often prefers to enjoy the silence than listen to Lance opine on life and love. Lance goes back to the city on weekends to hook up with girls; stories of which he brings back to Alvin, but we can’t help but get the idea that his accounts are embellished if not flat out fabricated.
Director David Gordon Green has been behind the camera of such raucous comedies as Pineapple Express with Seth Rogen, Your Highness with Danny McBride, and The Sitter with Jonah Hill. Despite the appearance of another Judd Apatow regular in Paul Rudd, do not expect anything like those rowdy mainstream comedies. When Green isn’t making stoner comedies, his other forte is in quiet, low-budget character examinations such as George Washington and All the Real Girls. This is very much in the same vein of the latter.
This movie is all about the performances. Rudd once again exhibits a sardonic wit and acerbic tongue, only unlike his personality in conventional comedies, this time his attitude is masking an underlying sadness. It’s suggested that Alvin is on anti-depressants and that his desire to sequester himself in the woods isn’t so much out of relaxation as it is his fear of embracing life. Hirsch plays Lance as cocky but also sweet and naive; with his traits also serving to hide his insecurities. The two mismatched men will begin to form a bond after their initial personality clash. But make no mistake, this is not done in any kind of traditional buddy-comedy manner.
One of the best aspects of the film is the dialogue, which is often amusingly insightful and touching. The movie comes off as if it were adapted from a stage play, talk wise; not so much with the road trip like setting. Alvin and Lance spend much of the film arguing, but also opening up to one another. Regarding Lance and his sister, Alvin says, “This family, you are a weak people! You are a weak, feeble, flimsy, tenuous people!” He’ll later ask “How did you live your life up to this point without knowing how to gut a fish, or build a tent, or tie a knot, or mind your own business?” It’s this kind of quirky banter that both emotionally resonates and makes up the best portions of the film.
I dare not ruin it, but there’s a bizarre and enigmatic twist ending like something out of an M. Night Shyamalan movie that adds a whole other level to what you will take away from the film. If my personal interpretation is accurate, the conclusion is quite intriguing and completely unexpected from a movie of this manner.
Prince Avalanche is a minimalist film that was secretly shot in only 16 days. Whatever the direct opposite of an epic would be, this is it. There’s a lot to appreciate about this movie, but unfortunately some of it is also fairly boring. It’s certainly interesting, different and an experiment in style. It’s the type of movie that is so disconcerting on a first time viewing that I might re-watch it down the road and realize I absolutely love it. But as for now, and as far as cinema goes; this is more of an art project than it is a full-fleshed film.