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I enjoyed seeing Prince Avalanche at SXSW Film Festival. It is a peculiar and deceptively simple story of two highway workers in an isolated area painting the line down the middle of a new highway. The setting becomes a character as this low-budget movie was filmed in Bastrop, Texas last summer in the aftermath of the recent fires. Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch are really magnificent. Rudd is actually difficult to recognize and comes off so different than he often does in his straight comedy roles. This is a dialogue-driven film that in some ways seems a bit like a stage play. The dialogue and the relationship between the two leads drives the entire film. The film nicely merges the comedic nature of both of the ridiculous characters with the serious nature of the issues that they are dealing with in their personal lives. The film is far lighter than Rudd's recent turn in deathly dark Killer Joe, but somewhat more serious than Rudd's big budget film This is 40. While this sort of small-budget film is unlikely to get widespread distribution it really showcases the talents of both of these actors and the importance of good writing and a beautiful setting.
All hope was lost for David Gordon Green. After a string of cult-ready
indie flicks, he sold out in the best possible way and made the
hilarious Pineapple Express. I hoped it was a one off, or at least,
that he would remain good at comedy. But the disappointing Your
Highness and the 'I- can't-even-bear-to-look-at-its-IMDb-page' The
Sitter don't look too promising for his future. Now with Prince
Avalanche, it seems like he's taken a good look at himself and realized
what he does best. Small scale dramas concerning the human condition,
especially regarding romantic relationships. I always love good films
about little-thought of jobs and the guys who do the line painting of
the roads in the middle of nowhere is a fascinating one. Prince
Avalanche is a dual character study of an introvert and an extrovert
but goes beyond the 'odd couple' clichés. Together, they cover enough
ground to find relatable areas, and with dialogue-driven scenes, it
cuts to the core of what they live for and how that drive changes and
grows throughout the course of the film.
Paul Rudd is absolutely outstanding here. I'm so glad he's finally found a role to test his dramatic talent without having to ignore his brand of comedy, though much of the humour of this film is incidental and sparse. He's incredibly subtle and commanding. Unfortunately, Emile Hirsch looks amateur next to Rudd and he rarely feels as sincere. Sometimes the little conflicts between them suffer because of it which make the film feel slower than it is, but they still drive the character development in an interesting way. Rudd aside, the highlight of the film is the great cinematography. Sometimes the cutaways and montages are more emotionally engaging than the words as they think of all the symbols possible in this environment with these characters. It's a film that conjures a mood more than anything and it reassures me that David Gordon Green never left, he was just taking a break. I regret that I've more or less forgotten what happens in his first four films but Avalanche makes me want to revisit them soon. It's a beautiful simple film which ends on a lovely hopeful note. A true catharsis from the social order of life and utterly refreshing to watch.
If Emile Hirsch and Paul Rudd get stuck in the woods, does it make for
a good movie?
This is the question Prince Avalanche asks of us, and the answer is a resounding yes. The film is a low-budget bromance that focuses on the relationship of two road workers revamping Texas roads after a forest fire wipes them out.
Spending weeks at a time isolated from society, our two protagonists get to know each other very well, and talk about everything and anything together but mostly women. Alvin, (Paul Rudd) is dating Lance's (Emile Hirsch) older sister Madison, while Lance is constantly looking forward to the day when he can leave the forest and head back into the city where all the girls are.
The pair of actors are wonderful together, and it's their comical and engaging interactions that provide the framework for this movie. Director David Gordon Greene (The Sitter, Pineapple Express) is no stranger to comedy, and there are some brilliantly funny moments in Prince Avalanche, but the humor never takes full focus. There are long, meditative shots of nature mixed in with some great dramatic events that make this film a more reflective piece than a funny one.
Unfortunately, there is a bit of empty space, and some scenes drag on longer than they should. There is also this sub-plot involving an older alcoholic character that never really goes anywhere. Despite it's flaws, the highs and lows in Alvin and Lance's relationship make for a charming and inspirational story. Prince Avalanche is whole-heartedly an entertaining film that finds that rare sweet spot between the heart and funny bone.
Prince avalanche gains much of its personality from the fire damaged
forests that it takes place in. Despite the characters fairly trivial
and base dramas that occur in their lives the film likes to remind us
of the natural beauty that can be found in the remnants of what was
once a community but is now being rebuilt by these two bumbling
There's not a great deal of plot compelling Avalanche forward at times and often scenes will consist primarily of Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch spraying new road surface lines followed by extensive hammerings in of poles. Although the film may appear slow I quite enjoyed the meditative state in which the film exists as the occasional bursts of personality were punctuated more by the peace that preceded it. The film is also often quite funny in my opinion but it's a very low key humble humor that won't have you in stitches but feels natural within the scene.
I also really enjoyed the truck driver character and subplot (I guess you'd call it) involving a woman who lost her house. I guess why these elements work so well is that you're constantly searching any one frame or scene for something that will advance the plot and although these elements appeared before my patience ever wore too thin, they're still quite few and far between. There also a scene which involves Hirsch and Rudd getting drunk and doing whatever one does drunk this deep into the woodlands which I found very funny and a definite highlight.
The film doesn't achieve any great heights and probably doesn't land as much humour or inject enough drama to justify its length I still enjoyed my time in the theatre and would recommend watching it if you're in a chill enough mood.
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.
I saw this one at the Berlinale 2013 film festival, where it was part
of the official Competition. The synopsis left me speculating what
interesting things could happen in the given circumstances. Two men all
alone in a deserted environment, meeting virtually no one while
underway, and having a boring tedious task before them. Would one
eventually kill or otherwise harm the other one?? Any attempt to have
sex together, perhaps?? Or are they bordering on getting mad and about
to make a mess of their job?? The situation could scatter in any
direction, so it seemed. Anyway, the direction the story actually took
was surprising. It is difficult but also unnecessary to condense the
story here. Let me only say that the Dear John letter carried by the
younger one (Lance) and addressed to the older one (Alvin), is an
essential element in the proceedings.
They encounter some people, but these are only icing on the cake, no more no less. The lorry driver with the home made booze is picturesque in his behavior and his looks, offers some distraction from the story line, but is not essential. The woman in the burnt down cottage, desperately looking for her license as a pilot, left a minor open end when we see her later on with aforementioned lorry driver, though the latter denies having seen any woman around. But this is a trivial detail, not hampering my viewing experience.
All in all, I must say that this movie surprised me much more than I could have imagined after reading the synopsis on the festival website. It can be of no surprise that the Berlinale 2013 International Jury awarded a Silver Bear for best director, deservedly since he made a compelling movie out of barely nothing. The two main characters perform very well, and the desolate décor is perfectly integrated in the end product as presented to us.
"You tried kill yourself by jumping off a 12 foot cliff?" (Lance to
I'm a sucker for minimalism and absurdism, the kind Samuel Beckett and Jerry Seinfeld make their own: terse dialogue about nothing that somehow elicits humor and becomes something deeper with thoughts about life, loss, and hope.
Writer-director David Gordon Green has crafted a simple bromatic morality tale of two guys painting road lines in 1988 after a forest fire near Austin, Texas. The purged, scorched landscape of the ravaged but beautiful Bastrop State Park serves as metaphor for the men/boys' cleansing journey marching toward a renewed life. One critic calls it "broken people in a broken forest."
The larger concerns of the film, which is episodic with love and loss overlaying the quotidian activities of painting road lines, are manifold: In Alvin's (Paul Rudd) case, how can he keep his lover, Madison, when he is absent and really has little to offer? In Lance's (EmileHirsch) life, how can he mature enough to deal with the heartbreak his sister is causing Alvin by breaking up with him. Alvin and Lance's conversation lightly brushes the issue of their relationship with women, but in simple lives, this issue is grand and well accounted for by Green's spare dialogue: "Can we enjoy the silence?"
As in Beckett's Waiting for Godot, where the characters are trying "to hold the terrible silence at bay," nothing like God or illumination is arriving, just an old man (Lance LeGault) driving a truck with some moonshine and pithy life advice.
As the road lines and the drink proliferate, issues for the three men emerge having to do with their relationships with women. The ingenious part is to make what the truck driver says and does echo the very heart of the conflicts with the two line painters.
So Prince Avalanche (a title Green admits makes little sense but could reflect the absurdist atmosphere, wherein they are lords of chaos at best) is also about nothing because nothing is happening while life-defining relationships are lying underneath. As with Hemingway, the spare story asks you to consider if the bell is tolling for just these three loners, or is it tolling for you, too?
You don't need to be a Prince who causes Avalanches to see that the issues of love and women do amount to a hill of beans for each little male life. Simplicity trumps complexity once again.
If two dudes quarrel in the woods ... do they make a sound? Director
David Gordon Green has graciously stepped back from making
underachieving R-rated comedies to give us what could end up amounting
to an underachieving R-rated comedy, but in truth offers a good deal
Based on a story by Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurosson, "Prince Avalanche" follows two men doing road repair work in the wildfire-ravaged Texas wilderness in the summer of 1988. Alvin (Paul Rudd) has hired his girlfriend's brother, Lance (Emile Hirsch) to work alongside him hammering in reflector posts and painting traffic lines. The two are archetypal opposites: Alvin the focused, organized and wiser character and Lance the immature, unskilled free- wheeler. Their naturally tenuous relationship goes through ups and downs and unsurprisingly, the two find common ground in their opposite approaches and perspectives.
The David Gordon Green who directs this film recalls the one who made "All the Real Girls" and "Snow Angels," not the one appeared to steal his name and made "Pineapple Express," "Your Highness" and "The Sitter." One could argue it's a middle ground offering between Green's two extremes because of the film's comic angle, but the pace and style has more Terrence Malick influence than anything else and the humor isn't written in so much as it emerges organically from the back-and-forth of the performances.
With a combination of nature establishing shots, the camera zooming down a road and a stirring soundtrack from Austin-based post-rockers Explosions in the Sky (a nice local touch), "Avalanche" exudes indie-ness. It's quirky, comically exaggerated, poignantly human and Green tells it in a logical but atypical narrative structure. The film is a voice-over narrator away from being so independent it wouldn't be independent anymore.
Half of "Prince Avalanche" focuses on setting a reflective tone through visuals, while the other half examines these characters through their dialogue with one another. Much of the script consists of conversations that simultaneously reveal their utter simplicity as well as their true humanity. The story ultimately mediates on notions of loneliness and our need for companionship in both platonic and non-platonic forms.
Rudd and Hirsch make all the comedy click, though Green has a way of framing certain shots that bring out the humor in seemingly ordinary situations. Both actors are on top of their game -- few can strike a balance between comedy and honesty like Rudd and "Avalanche" is an ideal showcase for that talent. Hirsch, meanwhile, continues to offer up evidence why he's grossly underrated.
"Prince Avalanche" tries to find that sweet spot between comedy and relationship drama, and though it strikes a few resonant chords emotionally speaking, it's not nearly as fulfilling or powerful as Green's poetic imagery suggests that it desires to be. It has a bit too much fun reveling in its weirdness and goofy, innocent man-child characters, but on the flip side, how many films with goofy, innocent man-child characters even manage to achieve this level of thoughtfulness?
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A story about two men working on motorway maintenance. That's it. From
the opening to closing scene we are presented with a series of
interchanges of these two guys working the asphalt. One might rush to
assume that it probably is a dull experience but in truth it was far
There was something about the realism and humanity of the interaction that would maintain the audience's attention and engagement. Slowly, we became part of the ordinary lives of these two men and our interest in their dealings with one another only increased and thus making this a largely unnoticed gem.
Whenever I see a film so sparsely populated with cinematic oomph as this utterly unnecessary film, I often wonder what it must have looked like on paper. Because, between the shots of back roads, leaves and the odd insect, this bland and boring two-hander sports some of the most colourless dialogue you'll hear outside of a talking clock. Those expecting another comedic character from the normally-reliable Paul Rudd will be severely disappointed because his role here as the mildly neurotic road worker is as bland as a sheet of glass. While defenders of the film will no doubt point up the fact that its about two normal guys doing a boring job, I rather think its lack of charm may have been due to a poor translation of the Swedish original, 'Either Way', by the writer, Sigursson. Either way, it's a flop. Minus points for the annoying hipster soundtrack.
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