IFF Boston 2013: Prince Avalanche Review

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U.S. Release Date: August 9th, 2013

An interesting case-study could be made of writer-director David Gordon Green’s filmmaking career thus far. He began with small critically-acclaimed indies like George Washington and All the Real Girls, but come 2008 he veered off into unexpected territory by becoming a member of the Judd Apatow-clan and directing the stoner comedy Pineapple Express. Since then he’s had less success with his follow-up mainstream comedies, although he’s continued to show his penchant for stunning visuals on the incredibly underrated and misunderstood HBO comedy Eastbound & Down. Last year in complete secrecy he got Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch together to remake the Icelandic film Either Way, and the result was Prince Avalanche, a combination of the two distinctly different periods of David Gordon Green’s career. And boy, does it work.

The film revolves around two highway workers Alvin (Rudd) and Lance (Hirsch). They are tasked with painting the lines on the highways in an isolated section of Texas recently ravaged by fire. The main reason this simplistic story is so effective is the two lead performances from Rudd and Hirsch. They essentially are the film, with only a few rare interactions with other people, and their chemistry is damn near comedic perfection. Their relationship begins at a distance, as Lance is the kid brother to Alvin’s girlfriend, and Alvin agreed to have Lance come work with him under the guise that perhaps he could shape him up. Rudd’s performance is the more heartfelt of the two as Alvin’s nature seems to be one of constant pleasantness. This is challenged however by Lance, who Hirsch plays as an endearingly lovable buffoon who longs for a little action from the opposite sex. As the film progresses the relationship does as well, which leads not only to hilarious drunken hijinks but also a self-examination of their places in the world and the women with whom they hope to spend their lives.

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Now let me get this out of the way, Prince Avalanche is an incredibly strange film. It certainly may not play as well for the masses, but last night my audience ate it up. The laughter was non-stop, especially for the seemingly unending supply of buffonish Hirsch facial expressions. With Prince, David Gordon Green seems completely aware of his career detour and does everything in his power to combine the best of both worlds. In my opinion he succeeds wildly, as the film not only captures the essence of the bromance (as he did in Pineapple Express) but also brings back his spectacular visuals, most notably in a sequence when Lance decides to take a dip.

Although it is only April, I feel a great amount of pride in stating that Prince Avalanche may just be my favorite film of the year to date. I have already seen a very good amount of independent films that I would consider great, but there’s just something that is impossible to shake about this endearingly strange little film. Rudd and Hirsch seem born to act opposite each other. They take these two distinctly different characters and form a bond between them, one that just seems a little too right. In one scene, Lance has returned from a weekend trip into town and regales Alvin with the trials of young love, or perhaps its lust in Lance’s case. He laments missing out on a chance for some Saturday night action and then discusses how nobody ever gets laid on Sundays: people go to church! Alvin listens to Lance, really listens, and perhaps there lies the success of Prince Avalanche. If we really want to experience everything this world has to offer, sometimes we just need to sit back and listen, whether it be to nature or to the kid who just wants a little ‘pus-pus’.

Note: David Gordon Green has another indie coming out later this year. It stars Nicolas Cage as an ex-con who takes a kid under his wing and its simply called Joe. I for one, can’t wait.

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