PRINCE AVALANCHE Review

There are several factors Prince Avalanche inherently has going for it when it comes to my humble opinion. First off would be the fact that it offers the chance to see Paul Rudd, a comedian I could watch do pretty much anything, in a much smaller film and in a more restrained role with more to him than that of the everyman smart ass type he's fallen into over the past few years. Second would be that it is directed by David Gordon Green, a Little Rock native, and someone who has an eclectic resume to say the least. I mention Green's hometown only because we get very few directors who rise to prominence from my neck of the woods and so it is a real treat to see them doing so well and being received positively in the harsh environment of Hollywood filmmaking. What Prince Avalanche represents though is anything but the Hollywood system. This is a minor film with a big heart and one that doesn't attempt to solve the worlds problems, but instead simply asks its characters to figure out who they want to be and what they need to do at this point in their lives to make that happen. Green first became known for his smaller films such as George Washington and All the Real Girls, though the only one of his early efforts I've seen is Snow Angels, featuring a wonderful performance from Sam Rockwell and a turn from Kate Beckinsale that shows she truly can act. Snow Angels is a very serious film and so it came as a surprise when Green decided to follow it up by joining the Apatow production family and partnering with Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg for Pineapple Express. While Express is a minor stoner comedy classic, Green tripped up on his next broad comedy outings with Your Highness and The Sitter. All of this is to say that Green has finally provided himself the opportunity to mesh both of the genres he's worked in before and in melding these two tones into a small, quirky film he has produced something that is not only oddly hilarious, but also something highly potent with characters that get inside your soul and make you smile.

Lance (Emile Hirsch) and Alvin (Paul Rudd) don't start out on the best of terms...
Billed as a re-make of the Icelandic film, Either Way, Green's film still feels completely a product of his own imagination. After 43,000 woodland acres in central Texas were burned by wildfires in 1987, destroying countless homes there was naturally much work to be done in the rebuilding of the area. Prince Avalanche follows two highway road workers who spend the summer of 1988 painting yellow lines down the middle of the road and creating their own adventures against the barren backdrop. As the two heroes of our story we meet Alvin (Rudd) and Lance (Emile Hirsch) as they are seemingly stranded in the wilderness of the open country, camping out at their work site and only venturing into the city when they feel like it. Lance feels the need more often than Alvin as he likes to attempt to have his "little man squeezed" and certainly doesn't plan on going the whole summer without hooking up a few times. Alvin is quite the opposite as he's more a guy wanting to culture himself. He listens to tapes that teach him German, he's a collector, and he likes to spend his weekends alone, with time to himself to think and to write. He is a bit of a jerk in some instances, but Lance balances bringing out this side in Alvin with his dim wit and outright ignorance in some cases. An extra layer of conflict that becomes more relevant is the fact Alvin is in a relationship with Lance's sister, Madison. Alvin and Lance don't butt heads in the general sense of Lance defending his sister or Lance not liking Alvin because of said fact, but instead Alvin is the only reason Lance even has this job. What the film plays up is that Lance isn't necessarily close with his sister, but instead looks at her existence as more of a fact he has to acknowledge. This leads him to not particularly care about her and Alvin's relationship which is what is on the rocks when Alvin begins to feel his sense of life threatened by the reality of what a real relationship might require.

Prince Avalanche is a film that won't leave you stunned or necessarily awe-struck, but it does leave you with something. Typically, I have different sets of expectations for each movie I go into and so ratings are usually better compared when talking about two action films intended as summer escapism or serious dramas competing as Oscar bait, but to compare two films intended for two different purposes is almost unnecessary. Now, yes, normally the Oscar bait type films are going to be generally overall better movies, but that doesn't mean actions films that excel within their own genre, or even better, break down the boundaries of genre are not as good as those with ambitions of being great works of art. What I'm trying to say is that despite these kinds of barriers when regarding opinion about film, there is something strange about small films such as the one in question here. While I don't feel I've seen a necessarily great film with Prince Avalanche I do think it is a rather poignant and well crafted piece of work that features two really strong performances and a tone that fluctuates throughout while remaining true to the sense of life the story is trying to achieve. In that little bit of contribution the film takes on big themes in a simplified way. It is no doubt due to Green's ability to see the small things, the surface fact that Alvin and Lance are of two different generations and have different sensibilities and nothing in common which forces them to inherently not like one another. Taking this and exploring it further than the two simply meeting and not liking one another and departing, Green instead puts them in a situation where they are stuck with one another in a time when cell phones won't help them escape. It is all about character development, how it affects the world around them, and Green conveys this aspect to the best of his ability.

...but there is little preventing them from bonding in Prince Avalanche.
In one of the more touching scenes in the film Alvin approaches an older woman who is sorting through the rubble of what remains of her house. She says to him, "all of these things are memories. Sometimes it feels like I'm digging in my own ashes." In this single sentence it feels Green has encompassed all he wants to say and by having the ghost-like figure of the old woman say this to Alvin it only re-enforces the wake-up call he needed to get past what was stopping him from moving on in life. That he comes to look at himself and understand his flaws, something he wouldn't even acknowledge at the beginning of the film, plays off onto Lance and the truly unlikely friendship that forms between them. Beyond this, it will likely feel that you didn't really see much happen while watching the film, but in reality it is the subtle ways in which the characters change that will really allow you to take something away from it when the film comes to a close. This seems a real credit to Rudd and Hirsch as it's said the majority of this film was improvised. Both actors seem relaxed in their roles while Hirsch has fun with the village idiot personification and, as I said before, Rudd is actually given a character to play here. Alvin is a complicated and layered guy who can be just as funny as he can be serious, and while the film that character inhabits could be described very much the same way lends to the point that it breaks the barriers of genre and becomes something more than just a film intended for entertaining, but something a little more, something you may reference in your time of reflection. It is good to know that sometimes you aren't alone and while Prince Avalanche may not have much going on, it leaves nothing short of an impression which shows it certainly has a lot going for it.