Film Review: Prince Avalanche

by Chad Liffmann on August 9, 2013

‘Prince Avalanche’ takes a humorous stroll down melancholy road.

Where we're going, we don't need lines on the roads.

Where we’re going, we don’t need lines on the roads.

Adapted loosely from the Iceland film, Either Way, Prince Avalanche is a sad, yet, somehow, delightful tale of unlikely friends connecting in an equally unlikely setting.  Alvin and Lance are spending the summer of 1988 re-painting traffic lines on a Texas highway that winds through a burnt out forest.  Their job is repetitive and tiresome, and takes an extraordinary amount of patience to adapt to the disconnect from city life and nearly all social/romantic interactions.  There is a lot of isolation in Prince Avalanche, from within the characters, to the landscape in which they work and pine, yet the film is light and inviting thanks to the humor elicited from a charming script and powerful performances by the two leads.

Paul Rudd breaks away from his normal shtick to play the meditative Alvin.  Alvin views the summer job as a way to make his life better, though in actuality it’s a means of escape.  Alvin seems to be fully aware of his sacrifices, yet attempts to cover them up with a casual demeanor.  Rudd is excellent at bringing this layered complexity to a character that could have otherwise been played as a one-dimensional loser.  There’s an innocence in Alvin that we can relate to and sympathize with, and Rudd captures it nicely.  Meanwhile, Lance is much closer to resembling the loser that Alvin could have been (and may have been when he was younger).  Emile Hirsch continues to add to an impressive resume that is evidence of his skills as a chameleonic actor – here he emphasizes Lance’s silly youthful rebelliousness and a sort of fish-out-of-water laziness.  Both men are hooked on the hypothetical fantasies that they expect to come true in their respective romantic relationships; Lance’s youth and inexperience translate his fantasies into ignorance, while Alvin’s reluctance to face truths verge on stubbornness.

Written and directed by David Gordon Green, who had displayed promise with indie entries Snow Angels and Undertow (and the hilarious Pineapple Express) yet lost some street cred with consecutive duds, Your Highness and The Sitter, mixes humor and drama nicely in Prince Avalanche.  The humor is stereotypical of the independent coming-of-age variety — quiet, nonchalant, and sarcastic.  The score by post-rock band Explosions in the Sky (who also scored the film Friday Night Lights) adds a hypnotic feel to story’s steady advancement.  The combination of the electronic musical pulsations with the stunning cinematography is mesmerizing.  At times, these elements produce the feeling that we, the audience, have taken on guardian-like responsibilities, requiring us to keep a watchful and secure eye on the two bickering subjects from afar.  The best part is that the film makes us feel welcome.


Prince Avalanche opens in select Bay Area theaters today, August 9th 2013.


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