Prince Avalanche is the film I wish David Gordon Green had made after Pineapple Express hit theaters a few years back. I’ve been a long time fan of Green’s, especially his early work, All The Real Girls, which is an underrated masterpiece in my eyes. I’ve even found things of interest in his recent studio-comedy “misfires.” Here, he’s teamed up with Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch for an easy-going, warm, and overtly character driven comedy that really fits in with his first independent films. With Rudd and Hirsch both doing fine work, Green is able to focus on the distinct visual stylings that once made him known in some circles as a poor man’s Terrence Malick. Honestly, if Malick ever wanted to make a buddy comedy, this might resemble that project, if only in some small way.
One of the smaller delights of Sundance, audiences should enjoy it upon its release, though I wouldn’t expect anything spectacular in terms of acclaim or business. A remake of a 2011 Icelandic film named Either Way, this is just a simple indie pleasure, nothing more and nothing less. Ladies and gentlemen, David Gordon Green is back and I am welcoming him with open arms.
Very low on plot but high on observation, the film follows two highway workers who forge a friendship while painting traffic lines on a damaged country road in Texas during the summer of 1988. The pair couldn’t be more different, as Alvin (Rudd) is quiet and thoughtful, while Lance (Hirsch) is boisterous, happy-go-lucky, and often dim-witted. The former has given this job to the latter as a favor to his girlfriend Madison, as Lance is her brother. Alvin looks at this gig as a welcome escape from society and relishes sleeping in a tent in the woods, while Lance hates it and just looks forward to getting home on the weekends to try to get laid. Their opposing viewpoints are tested as they go about their job, though ultimately they wind up closer as a result. There’s not really much else to the story, but the pleasure here is in witnessing the visuals and savoring the banter back and forth between the two men.
Both actors here are doing some very interesting work. Of course Paul Rudd is known for his comedic stylings, but he’s stripped down here for a performance that doesn’t resemble his broader work one bit. Likewise, Emile Hirsch shows he has an aptitude for comedy that he’s too often kept in his back pocket. Even in comedies like The Girl Next Door (2004), Hirsch was more the straight man, but here he plays a lovable doofus who generates as much comedy as Rudd does, if not more. Rudd probably gives the “better” acting performance, but Hirsch livens things up in a big way. Together, they’re a great comedic pair. They’re often the only two on the screen, though Joyce Payne pops up as a woman sifting through the remains of her house (much of her existence is left ambiguous), while Lance LeGault drives by a few times as an old truck driver, ready to dispense with alcohol and advice about women. Both are solid, and LeGault actually passed away not long after the movie ended, so it’s dedicated to him. Still, Hirsch and Rudd are the selling points here, and they’re in especially fine form together.
David Gordon Green has found a way here to marry his early sensibilities with his newfound interest in buddy comedy. The arty soulfulness that he used to exhibit is here, but so is the sometimes broad male comedy that’s caught his attention of late. Green’s longtime cinematographer Tim Orr has managed to capture some of the most oddly beautiful images of their careers. By making such a simple film so lovely to watch, he also keeps the pace from ever feeling sluggish. The movie does threaten to overstay its welcome late in the third act, but as if on cue it wraps things up before you can ever start to complain. Aside from All the Real Girls (2003), I actually think this might be the most accomplished work of Green’s still evolving career.
Very much a Sundance film, Prince Avalanche was a truly enjoyable little movie that put a smile on my face. Very few other movies at Park City entertained me so thoroughly, and if it’s not some masterpiece, it’s still a welcomed return to form for David Gordon Green. I definitely recommend this one to everyone, and they should seek it out when it begins its theatrical run at some point this year. Far more than just a remake, the movie just has a lot going for it, and I was with it every single step of the way.
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Tags: David Gordon Green, Emile Hirsch, paul rudd, Prince Avalanche, remake, Sundance Film Festival