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USA 2013
Directed by
David Gordon Green
94 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

Prince Avalanche

The obscurely titled Prince Avalanche is a remake of a 2011 Icelandic film, Either Way, which I have not seen, now relocated to a bush-fire scarred part of regional Texas in 1988 (a significant time frame insofar as it predates mobile phones and email).  It is a nicely-turned two-hander from a virtually unrecognizable Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch (who looks like a young Jack Black), as a couple of road maintenance workers who are painting the yellow median lines on the State’s backwoods roads

Alvin (Rudd) is a rather square and serious-minded guy in love with a girl back in town whose shiftless younger brother, Lance (Hirsch), he has employed as an assistant. While Alvin regards their job as a chance to test their survival skills and reflect on what they are doing with their lives, Lance is bored out his mind and can’t wait for the week-end to scurry back into town and get laid.  

If you’ve seen any of the films of Aki Kaurismaki then you’ll be familiar with the dead-pan absurdism that characterizes Icelandic film. There are certainly traces of that sensibility in Green’s adaptation but there is also a warmer tone in the bantering between the two as well as in the occasional appearance of a somewhat eccentric old timer (Lance LeGault, who died soon after filming was completed and to whom the film is dedicated).  The only other character is an elderly woman (Joyce Payne) whom Lance finds sifting through the ashes of her burnt out home.

Writer-director Green manages to do a lot with very little thanks to Rudd and Hirsch’s performances, Tim Orr’s cinematography and a score by Texas post-rock instrumental group Explosions in the Sky and composer David Wingo, a regular collaborator with Green. Not a lot happens in Prince Avalanche, but if you like your comedy to be of the humanist kind this will fit the bill.

FYI: If you like this film as a portrait of male identity you will be rewarded by Alexander Payne's Sideways (2004)




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