Alvin (Paul Rudd) and Lance (Emile Hirsch), two highway workers, spend the summer of 1988 marking the roads through rural Texas. Although the pair are at odds at first, two life changing events make them realise that they are not actually that different.
Based on an Icelandic film, Prince Avalanche is the story of friendship found in the most unlikely places. David Gordon Green first came to public attention with the excellent Lars and the Real Girl, before going on to make stoner comedies The Pineapple Express and Your Highness. It seems that Green wanted to return to his darkly comedic and emotionally complex roots with Prince Avalanche, and kept the film’s production a secret until it was finished.
Paul Rudd has also made a name for himself working on comedies like Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, This is 40 and I Love You Man, but he has always been an actor with the ability for the dramatic – he also appeared in William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet, and had a surprisingly touching role in Friends – so it is great to see the actor stretch himself. With Alvin, Rudd is not playing for laughs, although he sometimes gets them. Rudd allows Alvin to be a man so caught up in bettering himself, and with the notion that he is loftier than his companion, that he cannot see the two ironies present in his life; that by being apart from his girlfriend, he is driving her away and he is deeply in love with the countryside, yet is working on roads that will destroy it. As well as this, Rudd also allows Alvin to be selfish and almost cruel to the only person in his company; Lance, while showing off his tender side to almost everyone else they meet.
Emile Hirsch did not start off well last year, with the horrible alien invasion film The Darkest Hour, thankfully he managed to redeem himself somewhat with Killer Joe. Hirsch takes another step in the right direction with Prince Avalanche as he plays a man-child who appears to be as selfish as his colleague, but also has hidden depth of kindness.
Prince Avalanche is a remake of an Icelandic film called Either Way, which was only released in two cinemas in its home country. If it seems a rather odd choice of a remake, it sort of is, but it also serves to remind audiences that there is more to David Gordon Green than the stoner comedies that he has been making for the past few years. Green handles the dialogue between the characters – much of it the same as in the original film – with care and ease; he never allows the characters to becomes over sentimental, but does allow these two men, both struggling with relationships and themselves, to gradually open up to one another and eventually, find common ground. The locations – desolate roadways and scarred forests – serve to underline the damage that these men are suffering from, but also forces them to become friends as there is almost no one to talk to but one another. Where the film falls down, however, is that even at the darkest moments, the characters are filled with innocent hope, which becomes rather tiresome after a while. As well as this, while the first hour of the film is enjoyable and serene, it does feel rather muddled and unfocused.
Prince Avalanche is a return to form for David Gordon Green. Paul Rudd gives his most serene performance in years, Emile Hirsch reminds us of his potential and the landscape is as haunting as it is inviting. It’s just a shame that Green’s return to still but slightly dark films is a remake. However, if it took a remake for the director to return to quiet but hopeful films, then better this than nothing at all.