Prince Avalanche

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Release: Friday, August 9, 2013 (limited)

[Netflix]

Mumblecore may not be a lost artform, but it’s pretty clear it’s on the fringes, particularly when the recent entries are as minor as this.

David Gordon Green, after directing more mainstream, sillier things like Pineapple Express, The Sitter and Your Highness, switches gears by creating a story dependent on actual, fine-tuned performances and not upon ridiculous set pieces and poop/fart jokes. He manages to avoid being pretentious with his shoestring budget, though it’s not much of a surprise to see such a divided audience opinion of Prince Avalanche

One of the main reasons the film carries great potential to be off-putting is the extremely slow pace. Seriously. Snails probably would learn a thing or two about slowing down if they could watch this movie. (That’s not to write snails off as being snobbish, by the way; I just think A) their weird little eyes are too small and B) even if they could comprehend this, they would get bored.)

But for us humans, because the film also zeros in on an obscure, isolated job like highway maintenance — Alvin (Paul Rudd) and Lance (Emile Hirsch) are responsible for applying all the road markings to a recently repaved section of road in the wake of a destructive wildfire that wiped out a good portion of forest land — there is not a lot to grab a hold of in terms of dramatic material. Plus the fact that extended moments of dialogue-free, panoramic shots of the nondescript environs dominate the narrative early on doesn’t help those who are seeking something to identify with.

When you factor in how Rudd’s character is first presented, this film seems to be making every effort to avoid becoming a crowd-pleaser. (Whoops, did I mention earlier that this film wasn’t pretentious? That might have been a bit of a lie.) Green, though, is able to find a modicum of success in his experimentation. There is a quirkiness to this weird little romp, a very natural humor that makes this story absolutely believable, even if inaccessible (or pointless) to some.

Relying on some nuanced performances, his small-time Avalanche attempts to differentiate between the concepts of ‘being alone’ versus ‘being lonely.’ He goes about this by presenting two starkly different personalities in Alvin and Lance, who show that while both concepts don’t sound favorable, one is definitely worse than the other.

A mustached Paul Rudd truly enjoys the solitude; he claims to be able to focus his downtime into gaining what he considers valuable skills, like learning foreign languages, and that being away from people — like his girlfriend, Madison who is also, by way of holy-shit-it’s-a-small-world, Lance’s sister — actually helps him better himself. Compare that to Hirsch’s whiny, materialistic Lance, who has slightly less ambitious stupider . . .we’ll just go with different goals and desires, like going into town on his days off and looking for some girls to take home with him. He’s clearly less satisfied with his employment and, hence, the lonely one.

Yet, there’s a monotonous amount of road-paintin’, and silence-havin’ — I think at some point, a bee gets to chew some scenery — all of this to get through as this simple albeit earnest story slowly gains traction. This is a movie filmed through cameras virtually ingrained into the trees and the mud and thickets through which we see this movie unfold. You have to give credit to Green and his right-hand man, D.O.P. Tim Orr for literally absorbing the environment in which they are in. At the same time, I cannot blame those who end up feeling a little insulted by watching a movie that literally takes place on the shoulder of a road.

Ultimately, Prince Avalanche is a decent film that perhaps treads the line between immateriality and art-house a bit too closely at times. The performances are too good to ignore though, and there is a warm conviction with which these two loners eventually come to embrace their statuses in life. The low-key affair is also dressed in a gorgeous soundtrack by Explosions in the Sky and David Wingo, which, it can also be legitimately argued, the film relies on a bit too much at times.

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3-5Recommendation: Experimental at best and inconsequential at worst, Prince Avalanche is not a film for everyone yet those who do crack its hard outer shell shall reap the rewards of its heartfelt message and will appreciate the quality of the two oddball performances. It’s also a good one to check out for yet another different Paul Rudd experience.

Rated: R

Running Time: 94 mins.

Quoted: “So when you say something negative and insult the other person… You’re really just showing that other person what an unsure-of-yourself-type person that you really feel like you are.”

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Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com

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23 thoughts on “Prince Avalanche

    • Teehee. . .I actually tried to tone it in a way that would kind of. . .sort of . . . .maybe. . .appease those who i KNEW didn’t like this one. I remember reading your review and cracking up it was so good. Cuz i can totally understand where and why this movie puts people off. 🙂

      • LOL well I am glad we could give each other a giggle then at the very least teehee! I can see how some people would dig it but I have NEVER seen my other half so edgy to have a movie get the hell over with so that we could move on to bigger and better things!

      • HAH!! yeah, sometimes borderline pointless films like this, and Rubber. . .that movie about a car tire coming to life in the desert, these things make me question sometimes the director’s sanity. Like, I wonder if they have to put themselves in their locations and stay there for weeks and months on end and absorb the place and eventually they go crazy and come up with stuff like this

    • A good one just to happen to come across on Netflix if you’ve got nothing else going on. It’s a weird little movie but I actually quite like it. But if you miss it it won’t *Completely* break my heart. . . . maybe just a little, though.

    • Thanks dude, I would recommend it. It’s a little off-beat, but there’s nothing wrong with those. But this pretty much epitomizes that idea, so heads up. 🙂

  1. Definitely not for everyone, man, but I found plenty to enjoy here. It was a little experimental and art-house but I thought, for the most part, that the minimalist approach worked. And Paul Rudd was great!

    • Paul Rudd was really good, and I have to say that him and Emile Hirsch did great with what little they had to work with. I was put off for most of this movie, I have to be honest. But the movie did something to me in the last thirtyish minutes that completely changed my opinion, and ended up getting the 6 instead of the 5/8

  2. Saw this recently and got a real kick out of it. Eccentric, but not in an annoying way, and the performances were uniformly great. Fantastic soundtrack too. Great work as always Tom!

    • Cheers man, I took my time to make sure I really did this one right. I was first very annoyed by it. Which isn’t the right reaction to have at all. Then as I thought more about it the more i thought the way Rudd and Hirsch came together was really, really great (despite almost nothing actually happening). It’s a slight film, but this is pretty good proof that ‘slight’ doesn’t necessarily translate into ‘bad’ filmmaking.

  3. Nice review Tom. It’s lovely to see Gordon Green back to his old-form, but still throw in some of what he learned from his days with the Apatow crew. It’s a nice mixture of both over-the-top comedy, and heartfelt drama, but it all comes together quite nicely.

    • All good observations Dan, I def did see some traces of Apatow comedy in here, though the humor is much more indie. I liked it. It didn’t mean too terribly much but it gets better with some reflection upon it.

    • Then hopefully it will be a choice that you enjoy, I was very curious going in and the film certainly fulfilled some of my expectations. I enjoyed it but it’s definitely. . . .different. 🙂

  4. I agree with a lot of your commentary.

    I’m not sure I’d call this experimental, though. It’s a bit too linear for that classification. Though I agree it has a lot to like.

    I just wish it had finished the story.

    • I suppose what I was referring to with experimental was how temperamental the entire thing felt to me; the locations are just so mundane and ditto that to the overaching narrative, too. Though for what this film was trying to do it all worked moderately well. The story also did seem to be cut-off and incomplete, didn’t it?

  5. Been sitting in my Netflix queue. Solid review, I may now have to watch this weekend. Mumblecore also sounds like a Mumford and Sons heavy metal cover band.

    • hey thanks man! It turned out to impress me a little bit with what it could do from such a low-key set-up. I liked both actors in this thing so that definitely put it over the edge. And as far as I’m concerned, that sounds like the most logical definition of mumblecore I’ve heard 😛 It sounds like it could be a good hit single, too. Maybe by Girl Talk or some trash like that.

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