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Prince Avalanche - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
Prince Avalanche
Directing: B
Acting: B+
Writing: B
Cinematography: B+
Editing: B

There are only four on-screen speaking parts in Prince Avalanche, and maybe 85% of the movie is just two people: Alvin (Paul Rudd) and Lance (Emile Hirsch), painting stripes down the center of a road through fire-ravaged Texas wilderness in 1988. The opening title card informs us of a fire around Batrop, Texas, that destroyed 1,500 homes, but it turns out that fire, while a real event, occurred in 2011. But director David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express) used this recently devastated landscape for the backdrop of his movie.

It's easy to see why he would set this story in the eighties (although he could just as well have set it in the nineties): these two men have little means to escape from each other, and that would be different with today's technology. If Alvin wants to call his girlfriend he's constantly writing letters to (and which intermittently serve as his narration for the movie), he has to drive into town to do it. These are two men who form a bond that could really only occur in the context of their isolation.

Lance, as it happens, is Alvin's girlfriend's brother. Alvin gave him a job because he was "being nice to your sister," as he later puts it. In the entire film, the girlfriend/sister only exists either as the voice on a telephone, or in one brief moment, the back of her head. There is difficulty between Alvin and the girlfriend, which has the curious effect of, in essence, creating a friendship between Alvin and Lance.

The only other two notable parts are an old truck driver gives Alvin and Land booze each time he passes by, and a lady who is found sifting through the ashes of her destroyed home. This lady is not an actor; the crew happened to find her during filming, and then asked her to repeat her story for the cameras. David Gordon Green impressively weaves her into the story, ultimately suggesting she may be the ghost of a fire victim. This is done basically by having her appear speechless in every other scene she's in, with the truck driver more than once insisting he doesn't see any woman anywhere.

I found myself wondering what the title Prince Avalanche even means -- the director says it came to him in a dream, he just liked the sound of it, and he admits it has really has nothing to do with the story. In a weird way, just by virtue of the quiet, quirky tone of the film, it still works. Some stuff just doesn't make sense.

This story, by and large, does make sense though. It's slow but engaging, with quite lovely cinematography that somehow turns fire-ravaged woodland landscapes rather pretty. It even makes sense on another level to set the story in the eighties, when men felt far less free to express their feelings, and so these characters struggle a little with repressed emotions as well. Alvin is older and cynical; Lance is younger and naïve -- convinced even he is "old and fat." In a way they learn from each other to see new ways to regard the women in their lives, and they are women we never see. In essence, this is a film about male friendship. It's relatively sweet, and it's always nice to see that among straight men, given their long history of self-conscious avoidance of it.

There's nothing particularly pointed about any of this; it's quite subtle -- at times, almost too much so. Movie-goers looking for excitement need not see this one. But it has an almost meditative charm.

Emile Hirsch and Paul Rudd bond in devastated Texas wilderness in PRINCE AVALANCHE.

Overall: B
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