By Linc Leifeste | August 8, 2013
Director: David Gordon Green
Writer: Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurðsson (original story), David Gordon Green (adaptation)
Starring: Paul Rudd, Emile Hirsch, Lance LeGault, Joyce Payne
What an interesting ride it’s been, David Gordon Green. After a stunning career kick-off with George Washington, a much beloved poetic and meditative indie masterpiece of a character study, he continued in much the same vein for three more films before taking a 180 and directing the big-budget mainstream stoner-comedy Pineapple Express. Green tiredly followed that up with two lesser Hollywood comedies, seemingly intent on turning into the second coming of Judd Apatow. And then, thank God, along comes Prince Avalanche. Don’t be misled by the casting of Paul Rudd, who here is given greater opportunity to show his comedic chops as well as his broader range than in any Apatow film, because while the film had me laughing (a lot) during its hour and a half running time, this is a beautifully crafted, masterfully acted meditative sucker-punch of a character study, magnificently (and beautifully, thanks to the stunning cinematography of Tim Orr) capturing the despair, isolation and self-deception that is this modern life.
The year is 1988 and the setting is in the midst of a recently fire-ravaged state park in Texas, where Alvin (Paul Rudd) is earning a living by painting the lines on the roads and installing roadside reflectors. He’s recently brought on the younger Lance (Emile Hirsch), brother of his girlfriend, to work with him. It seems that Alvin has done this as a favor to Lance and his sister, in an effort to give the directionless and floundering young man a chance to find some direction, but as the story unwinds we find that this reflective man who purports to enjoy the meditative opportunities provided by his solo, nomadic life, camping in a different spot each night as the lines on the highway lengthen, is actually just putting up a front. And as his pretensions and reserve crumble, it becomes clear that he’s got it no more together himself. So here we have two men with no clear vision of where they want their lives to go, tasked with providing markings for those who are moving on down the road.
The film’s running time is mostly filled with long quiet shots of nature and lines being painted on roads as well as conversations between Alvin and Lance, broken up by the occasional appearance from a slightly crazed truck driver (Lance LeGault) who shows up randomly to hand out adult beverages and spout nuggets of questionable wisdom and an equally eccentric (and ethereal) woman (Joyce Payne) who lost her home to last year’s fires and may or may not “truck” with the bizarre trucker. The crawl of a pace that Green has given Prince Avalanche will surely be enough to anesthetize any viewers drawn to the film solely by the thought of a Paul Rudd-driven comedy but for those with a taste for more meditative fare (not to be confused with slighter fare, mind you), the film proves a treasure trove of emotions and laughs, subtly asking those questions that we all ask in our most broken, introspective moments, those questions that have no answers. And I’d be remiss if I failed to mention the gorgeously complimentary soundtrack provided by David Wingo and Explosions in the Sky.