Two highway road workers spend the summer of 1988 away from their city lives. The isolated landscape becomes a place of misadventure as the men find themselves at odds with each other and the women they left behind.
After a rough time working a night shift job in the city, Alvin is spending the summer on a remote two-man public works crew painting lines on newly paved roads through what is a recently wildfire-ravaged region of Texas. He is camping along the way living off the land, even doing so on his days off. He is what he considers a responsible man, earning and sending money to his girlfriend, Madison, a single mother, so that she need not concern herself with anything besides child rearing. The junior second that Alvin hires for his crew is Madison's brother, Lance. Alvin's controlling and judgmental nature comes to the surface in his dealings with more immature and irresponsible Lance, who goes back to the city on the weekends so that he can have "his little man squeezed", something he cannot understand in Alvin being without Madison or any woman for such a long stretch of time. Alvin prefers to stay in the burnt out woods on the weekends as being alone with his thoughts and his chores - ... Written by
Filmed On Location In Bastrop, Texas, U.S.A. See more »
Emile Hirsch's character "Lance" wears Ray-Ban Aviator glasses with the "Ray-Ban" logo printed on one lens. Ray-Ban did not add the lens logo until the late 1990's. See more »
[about cassette tape]
Hey! What are you doing?
I was falling asleep. I thought it would be a good idea to change the station situation.
It wasn't. I was listening to that.
I know, but it's boring for the rest of us. I was falling asleep doing the work.
So, I wanna play this tape. I wanna play this play to get motivated and pumped up, ya know?
I know, I know you want to play that tape. Look, you know what, Lance, I'm not here to start a fight. That's not what I want to do. ...
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The letters for the title appear in time with the taps of the hammer as they hammer a post into the ground. See more »
All of David Gordon Green's pre-Pineapple Express works (which are likely his best works) are unseen by me. If you've been a lifelong fan of Green, I can see these last few years being sort of bewildering for you. Green, who began as a very independent director, began doing mainstream work with the surprising hit The Pineapple Express before doing two ridiculous and forgettable stoner comedies that ultimately don't deserve a mention in this review.
It would seem clear that Green reevaluated his mainstream direction and questioned, "why waste potential in a sector that the masses aren't fond of me in?" He returns to the independent circuit with Prince Avalanche, a quiet gem of a picture that captures the small, beautiful essences of life in a greatly enduring way that doesn't come off as overly-arty or alienating. It concerns two roadside workers, who spend their days repainting divided yellow lines on a windy, never-ending road in Texas, as well as mulching gardens and hammering in reflective poles at certain locations. All of these things have been destroyed by an enormous wildfire that claimed 1,600 hundred homes in Texas in 2011.
The two men are the stern and peace-minded Alvin (Paul Rudd) and the often coy and dopey Lance (Emile Hirsch). Alvin is dating an unseen woman named Melanie, who is also Lance's sister. Alvin chose this job to try and get closer to a less-demanding environment and to offer peace-of-mind to not just himself but this his girlfriend, who stays at home with their son. Lance is out there with no particular motivation in mind, and seems to just want to get back to skirt-chasing in the big city. During this quiet time, the men talk, sometimes about trivial things, other times about occurrences in their life, and learn companionship through simple laughs and bitter words. It's the ultimate coming-of-age film.
I bill Prince Avalanche as a coming-of-age film because a character doesn't necessarily have to be young to come-of-age. Maturity and mental establishment living up to your age can take many, many years to develop or, sometimes, just doesn't, and the person occupies a deluded state of mind for his entire life. Alvin and Lance aren't so much deluded as they are troubled in their own ways and somewhat expecting. Alvin expects a more functional, linear relationship, while Lance expects to be able to glide through life, sleeping with any woman who says "yes." Even if you reduce these characters down to basic adjectives, such as dictative and bossy for Alvin and wayward and childish for Lance, you still have immensely interesting characters that deserve to be examined.
Prince Avalanche doesn't play out like a typical genre film where two mismatched men must learn to deal with each other. It's far too mature for that cinematic stereotype. The film is about dealing with limitations, whether they're geographical or personal, and appreciating the present and the slowness of the present; it doesn't emphasize on the fact that both Alvin and Lance are polar opposites. Even as they argue and bicker back-and-forth, we still get the sense they enjoy being in the company of others and would actually hate to be doing this job alone.
The only other character in the film is an old truck driver, played by Lance LeGault, who comes along at infrequent times, giving the boys soda, alcohol, and cigars, commending them for their work and dedication to fixing up the road. Focusing simply on these three characters, Green (who also serves as writer) is allowed to layer these characters and work with them from an intimate point of view. This allows for the maximum level of humanism to come through, as listening to their dialogs and their ramblings on life become oddly poetic and increasingly believable.
Only adding to the poetic nature are the stunning shots that exhibit the locational beauty of the backwoods of Texas. Green adopts a Malick-esque appreciation for a concise crowd of restless ants, a bright green caterpillar, poisonous yellow paint flowing into a small river bank, and the burnt, dead trees that now make up the forest of this area in Texas. Terrence Malick's latest film, To the Wonder attempted to tell a romantic story by capturing the strange, beautiful, and occasional essences of the relationship at that particular point in time. Prince Avalanche attempts to use those essences to further a story told with strong minimalism and succeeds beautifully.
The final thing to note are the performances by Rudd and Hirsch that show them breaking new ground in their careers. Rudd, who is known to star in offbeat comedies, could very well become skilled and known for his colorful dramas and the characters he plays if he continues a line of work like the one he is paving with this film. Hirsch, who has always been underrated and often miscast in my opinion, shows involvement with this role, particularly in his dialog scenes and facial expressions when either explaining a sexual fling or deeply regretting something he recently did. These two performances combined with beautiful landscape photography and conversation make Prince Avalanche meditative, peaceful, and a strong kind of road movie I never tire of seeing.
Starring: Paul Rudd, Emile Hirsch, and Lance LeGault. Directed by: David Gordon Green.
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