Prince Avalanche Reviews
Prince Avalanche is a return to roots for David Gordon Green. It takes him back to the quiet, indie type of filmmaking that got him started with a movie like George Washington. It has no real beginning and no real ending, and it definitely isn't for everyone. It's a completely different type of film then the comedies he's been making like Pineapple Express, Your Highness, and The Sitter, and it shows is versatility as a filmmaker.
Two guys, Alvin and Lance are working on an isolated highway away from any town during the summer of 1988. They're painting the lines on a road that had been destroyed, along with many houses during a major wildfire in Texas. The two are very different, but they begin to kindle a friendship as they help each other through tough moments of their lives.
This is a movie that many will think is boring, pointless filmmaking, but if you are like me, and enjoy these subtle, performance driven movies, then it's worth a look. Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch give good performances, and for the most part are the only people on screen. In the end, I never feel in love with the film, but it was one I enjoyed for the most part.
After a forest fire scorches a whole stretch of Texan landscape, two workmen set about remarking the road. Alvin (Paul Rudd) is the thoughtful, intelligent type while Lance (Emile Hirsch) is only concerned with girls and parties and only got the job because Alvin is dating his older sister. As they set to the monotonous work at hand and struggle to connect with each other, they receive news from back home that the women in their lives are no longer interested in them. This causes them both to assess themselves and the choices they've made in life.
Gordon Green's strange little drama is apparently a faithful remake of an Icelandic film called "Either Way" made in... I haven't actually seen that so I have no prior knowledge in making a comparison. That being said, I still found plenty to enjoy here. I've always been partial to, off-kilter, character studies and that's the best way I can describe this bittersweet and unconventional little film. It's one of those pieces that refuses to be pigeonholed and suffice to say it's, at times, strongly meditative and heartfelt, while at others showing a subtle humour and canny observation for the need for human interaction. The characters go nowhere fast and very little happens but, thankfully, the director isn't going anywhere either and is happy to focus on the strained and awkward relationship between two lost and lonely souls that find some solace in each other. A great example of minimalist cinema that's held together by a perfectly pitched Paul Rudd and an overweight Emile Hirsch (looking a little like Jack Black). The two of them are great and hold the film together despite some periodic lulls while cinematographer Tim Orr consistently keeps things interesting in his striking choices of imagery. So much so, that the barren landscape becomes a character in itself.
An odd and eccentric little odyssey, about life, loss and rebirth that has some insightful things to say about our connections with past and present.
Good Film! Prince Avalanche is a dual character study of an introvert and an extrovert but goes beyond the 'odd couple' clichés. Together, they cover enough ground to find relatable areas, and with dialogue-driven scenes, it cuts to the core of what they live for and how that drive changes and grows throughout the course of the film. Paul Rudd is absolutely outstanding here. I'm so glad he's finally found a role to test his dramatic talent without having to ignore his brand of comedy, though much of the humour of this film is incidental and sparse. He's incredibly subtle and commanding. It's a beautiful simple film which ends on a lovely hopeful note. A true catharsis from the social order of life and utterly refreshing to watch.
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.
"Prince Avalanche" may not exactly be a return to form for David Gordon Green and his glory days of poetic lyricism, mainly due to the crude dialogue throughout. Still, there is enough thoughtfulness on display for this to certainly be considered a step in the right direction. Elsewhere, Paul Rudd shows a bit of range for once while Emile Hirsch is content to do a middling Jack Black impression.
David Gordon Green began his prolific career just over a decade ago with a series of melancholy indie dramas. In recent years he's become synonymous with lowbrow comedies starring the likes of Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill and James Franco. It's a struggle to think of another film-maker whose career has taken such an abrupt shift in tone and as we made our way into the screening I overheard another reviewer ask aloud "Which David Gordon Green are we getting with this one?". The answer is actually a combination of both Gordon Greens. A loose remake of a low budget Icelandic movie from just a couple of years ago, (Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurdsson's 'Either Way'), 'Prince Avalanche' is the closest the director has come to his thoughtful early dramas yet is peppered with odd moments of lowbrow humor (there's even a fart gag) that would sit more comfortably in the type of movies Paul Rudd usually stars in.
The structure of the film resembles a movie Gordon Green produced in 2007, Craig Zobel's little seen but worthwhile black comedy 'Great World of Sound', a similar tale of two men whose job throws them together on the open road. 'Prince Avalanche' lacks that film's subtle wit and feels as directionless as its existentially confused protagonists. There's far too much dialogue heard here, much of it mundane, and you can't help but share Rudd's desire for silence. It's the movie's few silent moments that show how good a film-maker Green can be, in particular a sequence that brilliantly expresses Rudd's love of spending time alone in the woods, beautifully scored with an avant-garde track from the band Explosions in the Sky. The few brief appearances from LeGault's half-mad trucker provide a welcome dose of warmth, as does a touching scene involving an elderly woman rummaging through the ashes of her burnt out home for some proof of her existence. Most of the movie, though, is as mundane as its protagonists' task and, while that's likely the point, it makes for neither an involving or engaging watch.
Mighty lacking in development, this film drops you right in the middle of its characters' situations, with no immediate background material and even the bare minimum of gradual exposition, although that's not to say that these character's don't feel kind of familiar, both because of the well-rounded elements in characterization, and because of the areas in characterization that are simply too familiar for their own good. Plotting is formulaic in certain key areas, and what characterization there is, while genuine, rather blandly runs into tropes, which is a pretty big problem, considering that this effort relies so much on characters over narrative progression. This plot actually has very few notable beats and relies pretty heavily on mediations upon filler, so the underwhelming natural shortcomings are overwhelming enough when storytelling doesn't get a little too draggy, even in its own intentionally minimalist context, possibly because it has difficult in figuring out what exactly its context is. Art films of this type can be grounded and traditionalist in its storytelling structure, or near-abstract in its meditativeness, or simply somewhere in between, and on the whole, this film falls somewhere in between, but when it breaks in an attempt to flavor up storytelling style with dynamicity, it often jars, particularly when it abandons traditional storytelling methods to devolve into mere meandering meditations upon hardly anything at all, and take on a particularly severe case of dragging, backed by a particularly biting case of atmospheric coldness that admittedly rarely abates. Meanderings and a deliberately steady pacing aggravate enough on paper, and they are made all the more distancing by a certain cold thoughtfulness to David Gordon Green's direction, which is often effective in drawing on depths, but is just as often dull and emphatic of other issues, both natural and consequential. This project started making mistakes when it first drew out its do-little narrative idea, and with its loose grip on engagement value going further shaken by underdevelopment, familiarity and structural inconsistencies, you ultimately end up with an ambitious, but rather underwhelming dramedy. That being said, the final product endears through and through, not just with its thoughtful, if limp storytelling, but with its solid style.
I don't reckon the efforts of Tim Orr, David Gordon Green's preferred cinematographer, are all that technically outstanding, but photography is adequately crisp and broad enough to capture a considerable range of morbid beauty to a ruined woodlands setting, whose visually fine celebration is arguably not as aesthetically impressive as, if you will, the film's musical beauty. Composed by David Wingo and somewhat notorious, Austin-based post-rock band Explosions in the Sky, this film's score has lighthearted attributes whose soft perk and subtle playfulness hold a tender heart whose loveliness goes outweighed by more relatively serious compositions, whose soft modern-classical and post-rock soul is where this score really excels with its refreshingly narrative and hauntingly beautiful aesthetic value, which also compliments the immersion value of this art effort's atmosphere. While often pretty quiet, this film relies pretty heavily on its musical elements, and Explosions in the Sky and Wingo, understanding this, go all-out in crafting a remarkably heartfelt and wholly well-realized original soundtrack that not only ranks high among the best scores of 2013, but a particular height in stylistic compliments to substance that are found throughout the final product, which doesn't need to be inspired in style to feel narratively inspired. Do-little, but charming, this film has a good heart to its themes on unlikely bonds and coming to terms with personal flaws, and it goes brought to life by highlights in David Gordon Green's reasonably well-characterized and amusing script, which is itself done justice by highlights in Green's thoughtful direction. Sure, the meditative storytelling is often bland, if not kind of dull, but its tastefulness soaks up enough scripted charm to entertain adequately, while also playing on style and visuals to immerse you into this effort's environment. Onscreen leads Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch further immerse you into this character study with sparkling individual charm and solid chemistry, being grounded, but with enough of the performers' distinctive charisma to craft, for Rudd and Hirsch, unique performances that more-or-less carry the final product. This film relies a lot on its characters, and the portrayers are inspired enough to drive that element of storytelling, whose other elements are generally done enough justice to make a pretty endearing final product, in spite of its heavy blows.
When it all comes down, natural shortcomings to a near-do-nothing narrative, backed by underdevelopment, tropes, uneven storytelling styles and limp pacing, bury the final product under underwhelmingness, but through a handsome visual style, outstanding score by Explosions in the Sky and David Wingo, charming writing and direction by David Gordon Green, and solid charisma by and chemistry between Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch, "Prince Avalanche" endears as a heartfelt meditation on two men bonding and coming to terms with themselves.
2.5/5 - Fair