Director/Screenwriter: David Gordon Green
Two highway road workers spend the summer of 1988 away from their city lives. The isolated landscape becomes a place of misadventure as the men find themselves at odds with each other and the women they left behind. Cast: Paul Rudd, Emile Hirsch (film synopsis from sxsw.com)
WHO’S IT FOR?: Those who want to see Paul Rudd with a badass mustache or simply want to see a new David Gordon Green movie that doesn't involve weed, Danny McBride or juvenile, potty humor.
After a string of equally successful and unsuccessful attempts at big budget Hollywood comedies, David Gordon Green finally returns to his indie roots with a small, but rich character driven comedy-drama set along a Texas country highway ravaged by fires. Prince Avalanche represents an interesting mixture of his two very different styles, essentially combining the low brow, off the cuff humor of Pineapple Express and the more contemplative, thoughtful qualities that dominated his earlier work. Additionally it boasts career best performances from the two leads and gorgeous cinematography that helps elevate the fairly minimalist material into an emotionally powerful place.
At its core, the film is really about a friendship developing between two very different men, each with their own quirks and flaws, working roadside in a summer that promises to be transformative. Rudd plays somewhat against type as Alvin, an emotionally reserved and introverted loner who enjoys the solitude offered by his road painting job. In stark contrast, Hirsch's Lance is a foul-mouthed, abrasive young man who can't wait to get back to the city to get laid and party. Both men give it their all with Rudd showing a surprising amount of range, effectively shedding his typical schtick and Hirsch doing everything he can to rile a big laugh from the audience. The chemistry is undeniable and if I didn't know any better, I'd swear the two were brothers stuck working out in the middle of nowhere for a summer.
Green based the screenplay loosely on the Icelandic film, Either Way which features a mostly similar concept but differs in the overall backdrop. Here, the two men are cleaning up the damage caused by the 1987 wild fires in Bastrop, Texas. Much of the underlying melancholy is found by incorporating these events into the storyline, even going so far as including a real life wild fire survivor legitimately mourning the loss of her home. The hopelessness that the characters feel is exemplified by the destruction that surrounds them, constantly daring them to escape to somewhere better. Even if it's to town for a few days.
Frequent Green collaborator, cinematographer Tim Orr makes the most out of the beautiful landscape with lush colors and an impressive eye for visual memorable moments. Austin based Explosions in the Sky contributed to the film's soundtrack with a propulsive momentum of emotion that almost turns the film into a song itself, one you want to hear over and over again. The rhythmic banter can get a little straining at times threatening to go on just a bit too long. It's a minor quibble for an otherwise hilarious and effective film.
Prince Avalanche is funny, sweet and beautiful. A film made to explore and entertain while never relying too much on one or the other. Is David Gordon Green back? Only time will tell but for now, this will do just fine.
FINAL SCORE: 8/10
Tyler Mager currently reviews movies for CollegeMovieReview.com and comics for Gutters and Panels. He's also an aspiring screenwriter and filmmaker based out of Austin, TX. Follow him on twitter @tylermager.