Directed by David Gordon Green
United States, 2013
Tonally, somewhat close to his effort 2003 All the Real Girls, David Gordon Green’s Prince Avalanche shows a more serious face than his recent run of comedies.
Alvin (Paul Rudd) and Lance (Emile Hirsch) are two highway workers spending their summer painting yellow lines and hammering in road signs. While the younger Lance spends his free time trying to get laid in town, Alvin espouses his best Thoreau axioms and writes letters to his girlfriend Madison, Lance’s sister.
It’s not only that the buddy script for Prince Avalanche is more earnest than all of Green’s work post-Snow Angels, it’s also that the director visually slows things down. Shots linger in Prince Avalanche for a greater duration than in anything from The Sitter or Pineapple Express. Green returns to a style that’s more expressive, using the expansive score by Explosions in the Sky against wide transition shots of nature and the road to punctuate the isolation of these two men.
Still, the film is funny. Rudd gets away from his normal schtick to play the wise elder who still has stick firmly planted in ass, while Hirsch’s Lance is almost like a character from Dazed and Confused but on an entirely different summer vacation. Their rapport, which ranges from student and teacher to adolescent brothers, is unaffected and genuine, and the few moments of physical comedy – including a hilarious chase scene through the woods – hits the right note of just-not-too-slapstick.
This is a small film and the supporting cast basically consists of two people. Lance DeGault plays an outrageous drunk truck driver and Joyce Payne an unnamed woman wandering through the ruins of her old house. While the truck driver gets the big laughs (his insistence on mixing what is presumably vodka with beer is great), it’s a scene between Alvin and the woman that is the strongest and most heartfelt in the film. As she drifts through the wreckage of her home telling Alvin small anecdotes about what might or might not be her true past, Green layers and overlaps their dialogue, creating a haunting aural montage.
Green – a director who’s long been questioned for his route from (yet another) Malick-heir apparent to king of stoner comedy – reaffirms his ability to uphold the mantle of the former despite the fact that Prince Avalanche fits comfortably into the category of buddy comedy. Ostensibly (and literally) also a road movie, it’s one where the object isn’t necessarily a tangible destination, but a coming-to-terms.
– Neal Dhand