Loosely based on the Icelandic film Either Way, Prince Avalanche marks a return to form for American director David Gordon Green. Better known for his slapstick comedies like the moderately enjoyable Pineapple Express and the unfortunate Your Highness, Green departs from his madcap, low-brow humour to produce a more subdued, character-driven film that is astoundingly delightful.
Donning Super Mario style overalls, Alvin (Paul Rudd) and his girlfriend’s brother, Lance (Emile Hirsch) are employed as rural road workers in Texas. They spend their summer days on quiet country highways, dully repainting traffic lines and implanting road reflectors. With only each other for company in the deserted countryside, Alvin and Lance often find themselves at odds, leading to some amusingly heated exchanges. The stern and serious Alvin yearns to be the kind of devoted boyfriend who could “proofread your poetry”, while man-boy Lance often playfully brags about his conquests with women. This odd-couple successfully steers away from the Hollywood convention of portraying male buddies as a means for debauchery and crude jokes. Instead, Green skilfully directs them towards a more understated kind of friendship.
For Prince Avalanche, Green clinched the Best Director award at the Berlin International Film Festival earlier this year. With thanks to Tim Orr’s stellar cinematography, Green expertly interweaves panoramic shots of the American wilderness with the kinetic energy of the open road, to produce some truly beautiful cinematic work. In addition, Green’s deliberate attempts to create visual contrast charmingly demonstrate the animated dynamic between Alvin and Lance.
Rudd and Hirsch display great chemistry onscreen, turning Prince Avalanche into an offbeat buddy movie. Whilst drinking, they sloppily improvise their own song “Bad Connection”, which is both goofy and endearing. Rudd, in particular, is in top form here. Rudd has made some questionable comic choices in the past, such as in Our Idiot Brother and Wanderlust, but he has always managed to maintain a certain sense of likeability in the characters he plays (think the clueless Bobby Newport in Parks and Recreation). In Prince Avalanche, Rudd’s Alvin is exceptionally engaging, showcasing his ability to produce such a well-rendered and idiosyncratic character.
Prince Avalanche is a refreshing, lovely piece of film that explores the complexities and nuances behind the simple idea of friendship.