Director: David Gordon Green
Screenplay: David Gordon Green
Based on a Film by: Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurðsson
Starring: Paul Rudd, Emile Hirsch, Lance LeGault, Joyce Payne
Running Time: 94 min
BBFC Certificate: 15
David Gordon Green has had an unusual career. He made a name for himself in 2000 with his debut feature, George Washington. This was a small indie drama with no name actors which picked up a lot of acclaim and he followed this up with a handful of other fairly low key independent features which also got fairly well received by critics and festivals. However, in 2008 he made a surprising diversion into broad stoner comedy territory with Pineapple Express starring Seth Rogen, James Franco and Green's old college friend Danny McBride. The success of this prompted another couple of low-brow excursions in Your Highness and The Sitter. These weren't anywhere near as successful though and I think a lot of fans of Green's early work thought his career was stumbling down a weed-hazed spiral (there are fans of these later films though it must be said).
However, word of Green's next film, Prince Avalanche, suggested a U-turn back to his indie drama roots, albeit with hints of his 'second phase' as a comedy writer/director due to its star Paul Rudd being part of the Judd Apatow stable. Prince Avalanche sees Rudd play Alvin, a man that has taken on a job painting lines on the long remote country roads cutting through the forests of Texas in 1988, a year after fires ripped through the state. Joining him for the summer is his girlfriend's brother Lance (Emile Hirsch). The two have vastly different personalities. Alvin is a self-confessed outdoorsman who strives to “reap the rewards of solitude” whereas Lance is a horny youngster who has no interest in sleeping under the stars and counts the hours until the weekend comes around when he can try to get some action with the local 'talent'. Of course they clash during their summer together and cracks start to appear in Alvin's facade of satisfaction and superiority as we learn his relationship with his girlfriend is crumbling.
I don't want to compare Prince Avalanche to Green's previous work too much as I must confess I haven't actually seen any of his other films. I'm only going by what I've heard, but this does seem to hit a middle ground between the lo-fi indie dramas he first made and his later comedies. I would say it leans further towards drama though. There is humour, but it's fairly subtle and comes more from Alvin's deluded nature rather than from any gags or sharp dialogue. Saying that, there are a few nice Napoleon Dynamite-like obscurely funny lines when the characters put so much stock in their 'skills' despite their clear inefficiencies.
The drama is as subtle as the humour too. We never leave the forrest so we don't get to actually witness the external relationships the two men are struggling with. Instead the film focuses on their relationship with each other as well as with themselves. Both of the characters are deluded in some way and the film is largely about them coming to terms with the reality of who they are and what situation they're in. This aspect is handled very well and the two lead actors pull off the job of having their characters drive the film rather than a narrative.
Saying that, the film does feel quite slight because of this and, like most lo-fi character pieces, it's not a film that will really blow you away. The tone won't be for everyone either with the slightly goofy humorous edge making it a little more difficult to fully engage with the drama.
On a final note before I tie this review up, I loved the soundtrack. Post-rock band Explosions in the Sky alongside Green regular David Wingo provide a score which has a rich dreamy quality to it. It helps that I'm a fan of post-rock in general, but this is one of the strongest 'rock' soundtracks I've heard for a while and it's used to great effect in a number of abstract montage sequences.
So overall, as I said, Prince Avalanche is not a film that really grabs you and because of this I wouldn't say I loved it, but it's a solid character piece with enjoyable performances and enough humour to keep it moving along. Plus the soundtrack is fantastic.
Prince Avalanche is out on 10th February in the UK on DVD, released by Metrodome. Picture quality is fine. I had a moment near the middle where the volume seemed to drop a a fair amount, but it might have been my equipment rather than the DVD. There are no special features of note on the disc.