Slow shots of a beautiful yet ravaged landscape, long periods of ambient music and a melancholy thread running throughout. You’d be forgiven for thinking you were watching a Terrence Malick drama, but it’s actually David Gordon Green, director of Your Highness and The Sitter returning to his independent film-making roots with the comedy film Prince Avalanche, a remake of an Icelandic film Either Way.
Alvin (Paul Rudd) is a meditative and stern roads worker, who is accompanied by the dopey yet insecure Lance (Emile Hirsch), his girlfriends brother as he paints lines along roads affected by the forest fires that ravaged Texas in the late 1980s. The two men’s personalities clash at first, but as time goes they develop a friendship born out of finding out each others weaknesses and insecurities.
The unusually titled Prince Avalanche is a world away from the mass-marketed dross that Green has been producing in recent years. It is a slow-paced medititive comedy drama that highlights his keen eye for aesthetic natural beauty. The comedy is scaled back and there are a few limited, but very amusing individual jokes.
Most of the humour is therefore actually derived from the central pairing of Rudd and Hirsch who perform admirably with a script that is light on actual screen-time for them, instead preferring to wander off to look at the countryside. Rudd, a known comic actor, is allowed the freedom to express his impressive dramatic chops, while Hirsch gives as good as he gets as the young fool who is bored out of his mind.
The main dramatic thrust revolves around a letter delivered to Alvin from Lance after an ill-fated journey into town one weekend, and the aftermath for both men is nothing short of life-changing. It is from here that the free-wheeling spirit of Prince Avalanche comes into full force and the funniest scene involves a prolonged argument and the drunken bonding that follows. Unfortunately there is not quite enough material a whole film and this leads to a frustrating jarring effect between wanting to see more of the duo, but fearing that their characters lack enough interest to sustain the film any further.
A huge improvement from The Sitter and Your Highness, the nonsense-named Prince Avalanche is a broadly funny, broadly dramatic, totally forgettable return to Indy-spirited film-making by Gordon David Green. It’s an interesting experience while you’re watching, but one that you’ll struggle to remember in years to come.