It’s sad to think writer/director David Gordon Green is more widely known for duds like Your Highness and The Sitter, as most are completely oblivious to the numerous independent wonders which showcase immense talent in the bright auteur. Films like George Washington and All The Real Girls generated nothing but positive buzz around Green’s name, but once he started going the way of big-budget comedies, after the initial success of Pineapple Express, all that gritty indie cred vanished. Gone were the humanistic moments, heartfelt filmmaking, and grounded themes, replaced with Medieval pot smoking and perverted puppets – until now. Prince Avalanche marks the return of David Gordon Green to the filmmaking stylings which film buffs have sorely been missing, but after having been caught in the Hollywood mainstream, would his return to normalcy be a triumphant one?
Prince Avalanche tells the story of Alvin (Paul Rudd) and Lance (Emile Hirsch), two road workers who don’t really make the best team. Since Alvin hired Lance because he’s dating her sister, Alvin tries to tolerate his more disinterested partner who would rather be enjoying city life. Alvin, on the other hand, loves the solitude of the great outdoors, taking every chance to embrace the pleasures of isolation. But as each man’s situation becomes more complicated, a strain is put on their already flimsy relationship, until their petty bickering becomes a daily nuisance. Can the two finish out the summer working together, or will one have to hit the road just so they can both retain a smidgen of sanity?
While it’s nice to see David Gordon Green returning to his filmmaking roots, and while initial reactions have been rather positive to Prince Avalanche, I personally found his return to the independent genre a tad bit drab and a little too dull. Playing along at a pace like most of his previous works, thematic elements were missing that instilled such gravitas in his other multiple award winners. Everything started with the same minimalist feel, characters interacted much like you or I would, laborious road-work drove the film along – but I kept waiting for something bigger. Not physically, I wasn’t expecting some lavish action scene or crazy party scene, but spiritually. I kept waiting for that fiery realization, or grand thematic climax, or unearthing of a hidden feeling – but I unfortunately just kept waiting.
Stretches of Prince Avalanche were as long and tedious as the menial work Rudd and Hirsch are forced to do, as we watch the duo paint road lines down miles and miles of empty road. Green makes proper use of the vibrant wilderness surrounding our boys though, taking time for some pleasant nature montages featuring colorful shots of wilderness to accompany some folksy indie rock.
All that woodland beauty couldn’t distract from the lack of depth between both Alvin and Lance though, who offered surface value personalities and a disappointing lack of development. Alvin loses focus on what’s important and is too set in his ways to realize the spontaneity of life, and Lance is a shallow ladies man only worried about getting his “little man” squeezed. They butt heads, suffer traumatic experiences, teach each other lessons through the opposite point of view, and become better friends for it – but without much intrigue. Driving down the same road as so many films before it, Green failed to break any new ground with this strange spin on workplace dramedies.
That’s not to say Paul Rudd and Emil Hirsch give poor performances though, because both are rather charming with the bare-bones material they have. Sure, it’s not another riotous I Love You, Man type of performance for Rudd, but his snarky charisma still makes the boring little Alvin rather entertaining at times. Hirsch on the other hand just has to play a character whose immaturity and less-than-graceful demeanor rules all, trying to still live out his younger life that consisted of partying and women galore. This leads to clashing moments between the two, as Alvin repeatedly wonders how Lance has made it this far in life without having the common know-how of doing something as simple as building a tent, but these moments aren’t frequent enough to promote constant emotional attachment.
I know I’m going against the mold here, but Prince Avalanche fell short of royalty for this reviewer. Green may have been shaking the rust off from his stint making blockbuster comedies, but I unfortunately felt David’s latest independent effort lacked focus or drive, relying too heavily on the notion of just existing. It’s an indie relationship pushed too far over the edge of mundane, showing that while directors can sometimes score with a properly executed feeling of reality, sometimes a little Hollywood spice isn’t such a bad thing.
Prince Avalanche is an underwhelming sensory overload of too much nothingness, lacking any real spark of ingenious discovery. While I’m absolutely ecstatic our indie-making David Gordon Green is back, it looks like I’ll have to wait until his next effort before my excitement truly peaks.
While I'm happy David Gordon Green is returning to his roots, Prince Avalanche is sometimes about as interesting as watching Alvin and Lance's painted road lines dry.