Title: Prince Avalanche
Director: David Gordon Green
Starring: Paul Rudd, Emile Hirsch, Lance LeGault
Deeper meaning rises sneakily to the surface in the offbeat, austere “Prince Avalanche,” writer-director David Gordon Green’s re-imagined, loose adaptation of a 2011 Icelandic film, “Either Way.” A posed man-child statement of surprisingly substantive feeling, the film connects easily and most readily as a quaint little comic bauble — an odd-couple tale with slow-peddled seriocomic detail — largely because of its two affable stars, Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch, and the uniqueness of its desolate setting. In savvy fashion, though, this meditative film makes an unexpected statement.
The movie unfolds in rural Texas in 1988, in the aftermath of what a simple insert card tells viewers was a devastating wildfire that destroyed more than 1,600 homes. Alvin (Rudd) and Lance (Hirsch) work by themselves as road-stripers, painting traffic lines on lonely stretches of highway that run through this burnt-out wasteland. Apart from occasional interactions with a gruff trucker (the late Lance LeGault) who passes through the area, they are virtually alone. Alvin is the foreman, a head-down, nose-to-the-grindstone kind of guy (“I have a lot of prescription medications… but I try not to use them”) and the younger Lance, the brother of his girlfriend, is a characteristically shortsighted loafer who just lives for the weekend, when he heads to the city and tries to get laid.
Beautifully shot by frequent Green collaborator Tim Orr, “Prince Avalanche” doesn’t do much more than chart this duo’s bickering and uneasy détente, and yet it achieves a sort of mesmerizing hold, for the manner in which it assays notions of place versus home, and loneliness versus being alone. There’s an abstruse yet meaningful and even semi-poetic quality to the dialogue in many of Green’s indie efforts, like “All the Real Girls,” “Undertow” and especially his debut, “George Washington.” That quality is again quite on display in “Prince Avalanche,” married to evocative music by Explosions in the Sky and David Wingo.
Rudd and especially Hirsch are great. Their characters (especially Lance) are air-quote dumb or foolish as a kind of distillation of the essence of oft-unarticulated male feeling and neediness, and the actors capture this with a piercing grace and honesty. Nowhere is this more evident than in an extended monologue of sexual frustration Lance delivers late in the film, relating his weekend to Alvin. It’s quietly hilarious in both its detail and pure haplessness, but it’s when the story is later revealed to have been at least partially misplaced in its emotion that “Prince Avalanche” really blooms. Everybody hurts — even men who may not yet be in the position or emotive state to fully realize it.
Written by: Brent Simon