Director: David Gordon Green
Cast: Paul Rudd, Emile Hirsch, Lance LeGault, Joyce Payne
1988. Meditative and pertinacious Alvin (Paul Rudd) and his girlfriend’s half-baked brother, Lance (Emile Hirsch), leave the city behind to spend the summer in solitude repainting traffic lines down the center of an old country highway in Garland, Texas. As the two road workers traverse the remarkable landscape (scourged by wildfires), an unlikely bond develops through humor and nasty exchanges.
David Gordon Green made his feature film debut in 2000 with the critically acclaimed George Washington, which he wrote and directed. In 2003, All the Real Girls cemented Green as an indie filmmaker in the Southern Gothic tradition, telling coming-of-age stories set in small rural towns.
From there, Green moved from the country to the big city, where he was quickly caught up in a maelstrom of bizarre mainstream comedies: 2008’s Pineapple Express, HBO’s Eastbound & Down), 2011’s disasterous stoner-fantasy, Your Highness, and the Adventures in Babysitting remake with Jonah Hill, The Sitter.
With Prince Avalanche, Green is returning his art-house roots, while maintaining some of the laughs (and big names) of those Hollywood comedies. The movie is actually a remake of the Icelandic film Either Way (Ã annan veg), retrofitted to fulfill Green’s small-town sensibilities.
Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch have great chemistry as feuding road workers who learn more than they’d like to about each other. While humorous and affable as always, Rudd is ready for more dramatic work. Like fellow funny people Patton Oswalt and Zach Galifianakis, there is the potential for greatness in Rudd beyond his comedic roles – he delivers a somewhat nuanced performance here as the sour, brokenhearted Alvin – whose mustache and overalls leave me wondering if it’s time to reboot Super Mario Bros., as he’d make a pretty great Luigi.
As for Emile Hirsch, the guy is simply one of the best young actors around – I just wish he’d work more. He was brilliant in last year’s Killer Joe and it’s time for the Into the Wild actor to step up and be the leading man he’s no doubt capable of being. Together, the two bicker and throw punches while forming a brotherly bond on the road – but sadly, I can’t see Hirsch as Mario, but maybe, if he went method and gained 50 pounds?
Prince Avalanche is a straight-forward movie with a simple premise that leans heavily on two great performances and the scorched, dead locales that fill Green’s frame. As a small, intimate comedy, it’s a success – but as a meditation on something greater than itself, Prince Avalanche fails to find its footing. It’s more quirky than poetic, but a step in the right direction for Green, who has spent far too long squandering his talents in making safe comedies for broad audiences.
Prince Avalanche premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival where David Gordon Green won the Silver Bear for Best Director. The film screened at this year’s South by Southwest Film Festival to lukewarm buzz – but still manages to be an entertaining, sometimes meandering, movie that will satisfy those looking for a quirky, humorous mainstream-indie hybrid.
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PS: There’s a pretty hilarious moment where a frustrated Lance (Hirsch) wails out “ALLLLLVINNN!” in the stylings of Alvin and the Chipmunks. Honestly, Prince Avalanche might be worth seeing for that scene alone… and Rudd’s mustache.
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