'Prince Avalanche' Sundance Film Festival review: Paul Rudd, Emile Hirsch in David Gordon Green's indie comeback
For those who don't know, Green burst onto the indie scene back in 2000 with the critically acclaimed, but microscopically released, "George Washington" and followed-up with a series of well-regarded low-budget films. "All the Real Girls" (starring a pre-"New Girl" Zooey Deschanel) and "Snow Angels" (with Sam Rockwell and Kate Beckinsale), both debuted at Sundance. "Undertow" (with Jamie Bell, Josh Lucas and Dermot Mulroney) premiered at the Toronto and New York film festivals.
Then Green broke into the mainstream with the Judd Apatow-produced "Pineapple Express." Lesser studio efforts "Your Highness" and "The Sitter" followed. After his guerrilla-style experience shooting last year's Clint Eastwood/"Halftime in America" Super Bowl commercial, Green decided to get some friends together and make a movie cheap, quick and quiet.
The result is the scruffy, charming, low-key ode to male bonding, "Prince Avalanche," starring Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch. Set a year after wildfires ravaged a remote area of Texas in 1987, the film follows Alvin (Rudd) and Lance (Hirsch), a two man rebuilding crew assigned to paint traffic lines and hammer in posts along a country highway. It's lonely, isolating work and it doesn't help that Alvin and Lance don't really get along.
Two sides of the same coin, Alvin is a man of nature and introspection, Lance prefers city life and partying on weekends. But Alvin is dating Lance's sister so he figured he'd do the wayward twentysomething a favor and get him a job. Their bickering eventually turns into full-fledged fighting, but the more they discover about each other, the more they learn about life.
There are only two other actors with speaking roles in the whole film, both beautifully filling eccentric roles in typical Green fashion: veteran character actor Lance LeGault (who passed away shortly after filming) plays a truck driver who passes through and shares unconventional wisdom with the guys, and newcomer Joyce Payne (an older woman who had recently lost her home in Bastrop State Park, where the movie was filmed) shares a oddly touching scene with Rudd.
"Prince Avalanche" reinforces Green's appreciation for wacky comedy -- he's not back in ultra-serious "Snow Angels" mode here -- but is loose and philosophical in ways he'd never get away with inside the studio system. Some audiences will find it slow, or wonder if it ever adds up to much. Others will marvel at the gorgeous camerawork, striking editing and energizing score (by Explosions in the Sky -- known to fans of "Friday Night Lights" -- and David Wingo).
Clearly enjoying the film's freewheeling style, Rudd and Hirsch deliver their strongest performances in years and perfectly play to the film's blend of comedy and soul-searching. "Prince Avalanche" is a film to get lost in, while also proving Green is back on track.
More Sundance reviews:
"Ain't Them Bodies Saints"
"Kill Your Darlings"
"The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete"