Prince Avalanche (2013)

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David Gordon Green’s Prince Avalanche opens in the summer of 1988, where two odd men find themselves repainting roads. The roads had been put to ruin by the aftermath of a fire in Central Texas, 1987, which destroyed and burned 43,00 acres of woodland and about 1600 homes. Like the thrum of a bare stick against the clouding wilderness, the landscape evocatively sucks us right in the flavor of solidarity Alvin (Paul Rudd) and Lance (Emile Hirsch) share. Their friendship via a route of altercations and admittance of sexual frustration poses as a cautionary tale at first; ticklish and playful, and turns swiftly into a poignant experience.

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The film was shot in Bastrop, Texas after Bastrop County Complex fire, and is based on an Icelandic film called ‘Either Way’. The noiseless purity of the locations where it has been filmed aids the emblematic essence of Prince Avalanche by turning it into something more than a comedy. Paul Rudd steps beautifully into the rigors of his contemplative character who loves two things: learning and Lance’s sister. Lance is played with an unstable buoyancy by Emile Hirsch – he doesn’t have the soul of a reclusive traveler – he is just a fat guy who is sad to be away from the city. The two are very gracefully imbalanced: their personality traits are put to a difficult test in the superb landscape. It’s too bad that both them aren’t really there for the natural sightseeing. In a film where minimalist dramatic chops save the toppling narrative, the lead actors gift us two warm, sensitive performances that go together with the material like two leaves floating in a torrential stream.

Never underestimate side characters. Ever.

In two of the funniest moments in the film, the man in the picture above (Lance LeGault) appears out of the blue as a truck driver, offers our two friends some cheap country alcohol coupled with paranoid advice and then goes on about his own business. Prince Avalanche never feels like a film which suffocates its potential by sticking to an established structure. Its Darwinism doesn’t cower behind boilerplate quirkiness. Another memorable scene is when Alvin discovers a woman rumbling about the ruins of her house which was destroyed in the fire. This scene wasn’t scripted and the woman (Joyce Payne) is not actor but an ordinary person. The rubble she is sifting through is the actual place where her house stood before it was burnt down: the location scouts on the crew found her and asked for her story to be included in the film. The casual, moody talks between Lance and Alvin reveal more about themselves along with moving the story ahead, screeching to a halt and rising to an apex without warning.

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In an amusing, wonderfully played out musical montage where Lance and Alvin get drunk and have fun, Prince Avalanche declares its consistent willingness to let narration take a back seat over character development. Lance tells Alvin at night that someday they’ll get a comic book written on their adventures (of going to a beauty pageant). The miracle of the film’s storytelling is, we wish in all sincerity for that to really happen. We want them to spend a good life ahead, because every person who appears screwed-up on the surface has a genuine human living inside, and these two failures illumine under that same hopeful luster. Sorry to be an iconoclast, but sometimes words do speak louder than actions.

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