David Gordon Green first come onto my radar with his second film All the Real Girls which he made a decade ago. The film was a long mumble-filled affair that sticks in my mind as a defining example of American independent cinema and as the film that gave Zooey Deschanel her first lead role. In the years since Green has veered away from the character driven drama to a more comedic and mainstream path through films including Pineapple Express, Your Highness and The Sitter. Considering this CV you might get the wrong idea when I say that his latest feature is a comedy starring Paul Rudd; Prince Avalanche is not a broad buddy comedy but a sweet, funny, and understated comedy about two men who are anything but buddies.
Prince Avalanche is set in the summer of 1988 and two men are making repairs to a road following a forest fire. The two men are Alvin (Paul Rudd disguised as Luigi) and his girlfriend’s brother Lance (Emile Hirsch), they spend their days painting road marking and erecting reflective posts and their nights are spent camping by the roadside. As the film begins Alvin and Lance do not get on. Alvin is an uptight man who likes to spend his spare time fishing and writing love letters. He chooses this nomadic lifestyle as a way of seeking solitude and having some quiet time to think about life while Lance is a chatty simpleton who only works to earn money to spend on partying at the weekend. If Lance is not having sex on a Friday night he is not a happy bunny.
The entire film takes place along one woodland road and for the most part is occupied by any characters other than the pair played by Rudd and Hirsch. Considering neither of the dysfunctional duo are likeable, Alvin is too uptight and Lance too… loose(?), the film is remarkably enjoyable. In stark contrast to David Gordon Green’s more recent releases the film is funny, sweet, and charming with a subtle humour seeping out of every interaction between Alvin and Lance. My allegiance was constantly switching to whichever of the characters was being the least irritating and unreasonable at that precise moment. With the only real source of plot is the interaction between the pair Prince Avalanche is essentially an American indie take on Waiting for Godot. Character exploration is the key and the whole film rides on the shoulders of Rudd and Hirsch.
Prince Avalanche is a stripped back, gentle comedy with two strong and genuine performances at its centre. Green directs with a keen eye and only occasional strays into allowing the film to become too twee. For me this is a welcome return to Green’s roots and a trip I hope he makes again before another decade passes.
Prince Avalanche is in UK cinemas from 18th October 2013.