VOD film review: Prince Avalanche
James R | On 16, Feb 2014
Director: David Gordon Green
Cast: Paul Rudd, Emile Hirsch
Watch Prince Avalanche online in the UK: MUBI UK / Amazon Prime / Apple TV (iTunes) / TalkTalk TV / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Google Play
Every wondered how those lines get onto the roads? For Alvin (Rudd) and Lance (Hirsch), it’s no mystery: they have to paint them. One at a time. Right until the end. Working in Bastrop State Park in the 1980s, in the wake of a devastating forest fire, they make their way through the charred, desolate landscape, left with nothing but each other for company.
Alvin is the one in charge, a pen-pushing model employee who enjoys the isolation the long months bring – despite, or because of, how far it takes him from his marital home. He hires Lance as a favour to his wife. The younger of the pair, he is reckless, clueless, immature; everything Alvin isn’t.
David Gordon Green’s film unfolds like an odd couple tale (in every sense of the word), the contrasting chaps at opposites all the way down the highway. But under the conventional comedy sits an air of bizarre melancholy. It’s helped by the almost post-apocalyptic Texan surroundings, shot by Gordon Green with a lyrical eye for the embers of former lives, and a sparse soundtrack from Explosions in the Sky and David Wingo. When Lance heads into town for a weekend of sex, we drift with Alvin through the trees, coming across an old woman who sorts through the ash of her old home, searching for a document to prove her identity. Later, the woman appears by a truck and climbs in next to the driver. No one else can see her. Does she exist? Is she, like the two men, a waif or phantom?
That unspoken existential uncertainty gives Prince Avalanche an unexpected depth, one that’s increased when Alvin receives a letter from his wife. Is his absence intentional? Can he really provide for her? And can Lance help him figure out what to do?
Rudd is enjoyably uptight as the moustached man, a guy who allocates time evenly between them on the boombox – except for when he’s playing his French lessons. Hirsch enjoys himself even more as a Jack Black-like fool; his gormless facial expressions alone are hilarious. The pair wear the serious stuff lightly, never losing sight of their buddy chemistry, which erupts in a frantic chase and confrontation that manages to be daft as well as emotional (both men earn their place in that exclusive club of the World’s Silliest Runners). After The Sitter and Your Highness, it’s nice to see the director back at the helm of something so rich: this a tiny little gem of a movie.
“Are you hearing me?” scolds Alvin when Lance damages one of his comic books. “Yes,” comes the reply. “What are you hearing me with?” “My ears.” “No,” he retorts. “I want you hearing with the whole thing.” As the music weaves overlapping guitars and synth together into a beautiful, shambolic harmony, Prince Avalanche tumbles its way into a place of profound silliness. An empty forest with two men finding their next step, it’s like The Road on weed. Waiting for Godot with rude jokes. The road, it seems to say, will be finished tomorrow.
Prince Avalanche is available on MUBI UK, as part of a £9.99 monthly subscription. It is also available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video as part of a Prime membership or a £5.99 monthly subscription.