David Gordon Green cannot win. He has always been a director who is drawn to projects that inspire him, which does not always sit well with his critics. After making critically praised films such as George Washington and All the Real Girls, Green opted to move into the realm of studio comedy. Spending the last few years making critically panned, and at times commercial flops such as Pineapple Express, Your Highness and The Sitter, many were starting to question if Green would ever get back to the type of filmmaking that made him so intriguing in the first place?
Well judging by his latest film Prince Avalanche, the speculation can end as Green shows he is still a strong filmmaker. While there is no doubt that he will continue to follow the beat of his own drum, it is rather refreshing to see Green invigorated again to tackle slightly more challenging work than his recent comedies. Of course there will still be those who will walk away from his film expecting more.
Based on the Icelandic film Either Way, Prince Avalanche is set a year after a woodland fire ravaged a community. The story focuses on two vastly different men who spend their summer repainting traffic lines on a desolate country highway damaged by the wildfire. Alvin (Paul Rudd) is the more reserved of the two men. He pretentiously claims to reap the benefits of the solitude that their work provides. When not listening to his German language learning tapes, Alvin takes pride in his rustic skills. This is a stark contrast to his co-worker Lance (Emile Hirsch) who finds the silence and sounds of nature painfully boring. Lance is more concerned with getting his carnal needs satisfied and looks forward to the weekend trips home where he can “get the little man squeezed.”
If it was not for the fact that Alvin is seeing Lance’s older sister, Alvin would have fired him months ago. Though the pair constantly bicker, over time, a genuine friendship is formed in the isolated wilderness. Together they learn that they each have a lot of growing up to do. Especially in regards to facing up to the realities that they are both avoiding at home.
Prince Avalanche is an intimate and charming film that is very reminiscent of the independent films that were more prevalent in the nineties. The humour is subtle but effective and both Hirsch and Rudd keep their characters relatively grounded despite their quirks. Considering we only see four characters on screen for the majority of the film, including a booze-loving truck driver (the late Lance LeGault) and an old woman ) whose house was lost in the fire, it is up to Hirsch and Rudd to keep the story moving. Though both men do an admirable job, neither can cover up how little plot there actually is in the film.
The overall theme of loss, whether it is possessions or one’s identity, is prevalent throughout Prince Avalanche and is emphasized through the little flourishes Green throws into the film. The numerous shots of nature coupled with moments like when the words “I love you so much” appear across the trees come off as a little too indulgent at times. Green clearly is striving to give the film even greater significance than is actually there. Fortunately, these moments are not enough to take away from an otherwise enjoyable film. It would be easy to call Prince Avalanche a return to form for David Gordon Green, but I am sure he would argue that he never left. Regardless, Prince Avalanche is proof that you cannot keep a talented filmmaker down for too long.