Prince Avalanche (2013)
Alvin (Paul Rudd) and Lance (Emile Hirsch) are spending the summer painting lines on a new road in the middle of a state park near Austin, Texas. The story takes place in the mid-1980’s after a devastating fire that has destroyed hundreds of thousands of acres, laying waste to numerous homes and lives.
Photos courtesy of Magnolia Pictures
Alvin, the older of the two who is in charge of the job, has hired his girlfriend’s brother Lance, a young man who would rather be in town talking to girls than having to camp out in the wilderness to do heavy manual labor. Alvin, on the other hand, is rigid and pretentious, convinced that this will be a summer of growth and discovery. He embraces his time in the wilderness, listening to German-language lesson tapes as they work and fishing for their meals. The two men are very different, in both how they approach both work and life. Alvin is all about rules, structure and bettering himself, whereas Lance, the more juvenile of the two, is about breaking the rules and having sex.
The film is written and directed by David Gordon Green, whose work in the past has brought us the very funny “Pineapple Express” (2008) and the horrible “Your Highness” (2011). This is a very different movie than those films, much more restrained, while still funny, the movie does’nt go for big the laughs but for more intimate, real moments between two people. Using Tim Orr’s cinematography to great effect, Green also lets us discover the beauty of the recovering forest, spending screen time showing shots of the flora and fauna. The soundtrack, with music from Explosions in the Sky and David Wingo, perfectly matches the scenes in the film.
The cinematic gem is filled with small scenes between Rudd and Hirsch’s two mismatched characters, conversing about life, love and what they want for the future. There is great chemistry between the two, which is fortunate because almost the whole film is just the two of them on screen. There are a couple of scenes with a truck driver (Lance LeGault) who gives them some advice and better yet, some moonshine. Also, there is a woman (Joyce Payne) who is going through the rubble of her fire destroyed house, looking for surviving mementoes.
Emile Hirsch gives one of the best performances of his career, channeling a young Jack Black while playing the immature, flighty Lance whose main ambition is to survive the week, so he can meet up with girls in town on the weekends. Hirsch portrays Lance as a young man who’s not the smartest guy around but one who has a lot of heart. It is a role that Hirsch could have easily gone over the top with, but while playing the part of a goofy guy, he never seems to become a caricature of Lance. As the film goes on, Hirsch makes us not only like Lance, but also respect him for the warm hearted person he is.
Paul Rudd, playing against his usual type of preppy, quick with a witty comeback characters in films such as “Knocked Up” (2007), is very different in the role of Alvin. In this film, Rudd brings a surprisingly layered dramatic performance, playing Alvin as a man that seems to get grumpier as the movie moves along. Rudd shows what a fine actor he is in a scene with the lady combing through the debris, taking the time to have a conversation with someone who is grieving, having lost her home to the wildfire. It’s a moving scene, one that Rudd perfectly plays off of Payne, showing us a different side to his character.
Green has brought us a film that lets us discover and enjoy a budding relationship where the two men start out as strangers, but by the end of the film’s journey, truly care about each other. It’s a movie that has a nice mix of comedy with touches of drama thrown in throughout the film. “Prince Avalanche” is a film that shows us that like the recovering forest surrounding them, Alvin and Lance, with each other’s help, can survive and grow from adversity. My Rating: Full Price
The film is playing in Atlanta, GA at Plaza Theatre