Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch argue in the not-so-great outdoors in David Gordon Green’s Prince Avalanche…
Having spent the better part of a decade eschewing his Terrance Malick-esque roots to concentrate on frat-boy comedies, David Gordon Green strikes a pretty nice balance between his arthouse beginnings and crowd-pleasing latter-day material with Prince Avalanche. Gordon Green’s penchant for unromantic depictions of the natural splendour of nature return, as does his skill for seamless, yet frenetic camera work and spot-on soundtrack choice (more on that later). However, the fun, dopey influence of frequent collaborators Jody Hill and Danny McBride’s producer credits can be felt palpably as well.
Prince Avalanche follows Paul Rudd’s Alvin and Emile Hirsch’s Lance as they travel along a partially fire-damaged forest road, re-painting the traffic lines. Alvin is stern, uptight and a little pretentious, a departure from Rudd’s usual oeuvre of laid-back, charming everymen. Hirsch sticks in pretty familiar territory, as the petulant and immature Lance, younger brother of Alvin’s girlfriend, who Alvin is employing as a favour to their family. Right off the bat the allusions to Gordon Green’s more recent comedic work can be seen in the odd-couple quality of their relationship, with Alvin the stern authoritarian and Lance the dumb slacker, constantly complaining about wanting to get laid as Alvin desperately tries to extoll the virtues of outdoor living and solitude to him like an early-’90s sitcom Dad.
This familiar comedic conceit is also peppered with a little of Gordon Green’s earlier spot-on social observation; the awkward silences, the ill-fated attempts to connect and both men’s clear relief when these attempts succeed. As Lance leaves Alvin to take the truck back into town for a weekend of partying, Alvin instructs him sternly to mail a letter to his sister, which Lance agrees to and begins to drive away when Alvin calls him back and instructs him, almost as sternly, to ‘have fun’. It’s this attempt to meet one another in the middle and being applauded for their heroic failure that elevates what could have just as easily been deeply stock characters to a level of depth not seen in Gordon Green’s work since Snow Angels.
As economical and well-told as it is, Prince Avalanche also feels a little too big for its boots; the story just doesn’t really warrant the film’s length or gravitas. While Alvin and Lance develop a friendship and learn to respect and appreciate each others’ pastimes and values, that’s pretty much it. Beyond that, there isn’t really a plot. The result is a small and private story that would have been spectacularly effective and affecting as a piece of fiction rather than an ever-so-slightly bloated 90-minute film. Save for a truly beautiful binge-drinking montage, post-rock band Explosions In The Sky’s haunting and faintly epic score feels a little wasted here, there simply isn’t anything for the almost inappropriately ethereal soundtrack to bounce off, save for the admittedly beautiful and desolate scenery.
Well shot, well acted and beautifully scored, Prince Avalanche still feels like it could have been a good deal shorter.
Prince Avalanche is out now in the US and opens in UK cinemas on 18 October 2013.