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Review: Prince Avalanche

PrinceAvalanchePosterPrince Avalanche is much like its setting; namely, it’s a quiet place to settle down and enjoy a lower gear of life for a while. Featuring sympathetic male bonding performances by Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch, it steadily plods along like the road stripers whom they portray, but never breaks down on the side of the road and offers a nice bit of scenery along the way. Adapted from an Icelandic film, Either Way, Prince Avalanche coasts on its two leads’ interaction and dialogue that peels away their rather mundane but not uninteresting lives one layer at a time. Director David Gordon Green gets back to his indie roots with this austere production, which presents like an intimate stage play with one hell of a set.

The setting is a stretch of post-wildfire-scorched woods in central Texas in 1988. Rudd, rocking a pornstache, is Alvin, an introspective outdoorsman and self-styled intellectual who took a job as a road stripe painter to take advantage of the solitude it affords, which he relishes. Were it not for the fact that his partner, Lance, was his girlfriend, Madison’s brother, Alvin could be quite content with painting the wooded road by himself.  Lance is a restless twentysomething everykid who isn’t nearly as enamored with the lonely stretches of solitude.  Be that as it may, Alvin did Lance a solid by getting him the gig, and together they diligently stripe the highway and post the reflectors one at a time, occasionally offering their views on their own and each other’s lives.

Alvin is studying German, in preparation for a planned trip to Europe with Madison. Lance is merely contemplating getting his “little man squeezed” by a willing female during the upcoming weekend in town, which is what mostly gets him through the days out in the middle of nowhere, yanking it in his sleeping bag when Alvin’s asleep. Their relationship is cordial and budding, with Alvin assuming the big brother role to his less-educated junior associate. Alvin wonders how the kid could have made it through life without learning how to clean a fish or tie a knot, and Lance wonders things like what sex is like with a woman who’s had a kid (i.e. his sister), whether or not it’s still, you know, “as tight,” and the like. Their quiet verbal duets are occasionally interrupted by – holy shit, is that Lance LeGault?! – as a fellow highway worker who’s quick with a bit of wisdom and a bottle of booze.

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As they enter the weekend, the co-workers split, with Lance heading into town to mine a few booty prospects, while Alvin gets some “me time” among the woods, occasionally checking out some of the wildfire-destroyed homes. In one of them, he meets an older lady searching in vain for her pilot’s license and log book among the ashes; and in another he gets with a bit of Ward Cleaver role playing to kill some time. When Lance gets back, Alvin can tell that it was an eventful weekend for him, which it was. But it’s the news that Alvin gets in a Dear John letter from Madison that turns the potential would-be brothers-in-law’s relationship on its head and toward a new era of mutual understanding…after a minor threat of a fight and some soul searching between the two.

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What really stands out about Prince Avalanche, is the appealing ordinariness of it all. Lance really is that guy from high school we all knew who didn’t stand out from the pack, didn’t overly aspire to be anything, and is is coming to the realization that getting older is probably going to suck. He’s not a goof or a nitwit, he gets his share of tail, even as he has many of the same frailties about girls and friends that we do. Meanwhile, Alvin is a stand-up guy, forthright and faithful to Lance’s sister, but denying the fact that he feels a need to be alone and away from her. The two men’s conversations are what we talk about with our friends and their experiences are ours. It’s very easy to identify with them both, and that’s a credit to the two actors and the story.

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David Gordon Green has put together a very nice little slice of these two guys’ lives, in a very unexpected setting. This a period movie that really never shows it. There are no laugh out loud moments, no outrageous situations (okay, maybe that brief chase through the woods with a wrench), and no clever banter to sustain the film. Yet it never drags, due in part to some lovely cinematography from Tim Orr. Mix in a few drive-by bits of awesomeness from Lance LeGault in his final role, and Prince Avalanche really is a nice bit of something regular and appealing.

Prince Avalanche premieres on iTunes, On Demand and in theatres on August 9.

[Rating: 3.5 Stars]