I remember how I felt when I saw David Gordon Green’s All The Real Girls in theaters. At that point in my life, I was quite young, and I’d watch anything at the only arthouse theater in my town. Movies would pop up there, screen for a week, and vanish forever. I remember very little of the film itself, but there are remnants of the visuals left in my synapses; the warm organic closeness, and I recall my reactions. I know I was captivated, but I knew nothing massive was happening. I felt I should be bored, but I wasn’t.
Since then Green has become a much more mainstream presence, directing and producing in the Apatow-affected niche of studio comedy that has gotten so prevalent in the last decade. It wouldn’t be unreasonable to fear that all the time spent with bigger budgets, bigger names, and stoner comedy may have changed his filmmaking. And it has. It’s made him a stronger story-teller. That visual grace that his films carry has stayed. Prince Avalanche is as sedate as ever, but it’s beautiful and it’s captivating.
Prince Avalanche stars Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch as two guys working as an independent road repair crew, assisting in the long term reconstruction of the destroyed backroads after the massive 1987 fire in Texas. Lance (Hirsch) is the younger brother of Alvin’s (Rudd) girlfriend, and Alvin has taken him under his wing in an attempt to do a favor for her family. Isolated in the woods, they delve into deep conversations, learning much about each other, themselves, and the women in their lives.
Paul Rudd is such a flexible oddball. He’s anything but handsome in this film, he’s a nerdy middle-aged man who thinks he’s worldly and educated, but is easily as immature as his young counterpart.
Their mutual immaturity is much of what keeps the film so enjoyable, especially with the restraint both actors and the filmmaker show in keeping it from devolving into total silliness. Rudd and Hirsch get to be a little goofy at times, smacking each other and chasing each other through the woods, but it’s all a manifestation of their emotional frustrations with life. It’s funny, while still being poignant.
Emile Hirsch is really good at playing a young Texan, (and I’m forever going to associate him with his character in Killer Joe because it’s my favorite movie), and especially a whiny 80’s young twenty-something. He makes you believe you hate him for being an obscene asshole, but then allows his character’s exterior to crack ever so slightly over time, revealing his character’s vulnerability and confusion.
The charming relationship between the two men is only made richer by the lush atmosphere created by the quiet forests and the serene, rich cinematography. Footage of nature punctuated by remnants of the destruction caused by the fire let you walk alongside Alvin as he searches the woods for whatever it is he is looking for, even as he uncovers it unexpectedly through Lance. It is lovely.