Combustible Celluloid
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With: Paul Rudd, Emile Hirsch, Lance LeGault, Joyce Payne
Written by: David Gordon Green, based on a story by Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurosson
Directed by: David Gordon Green
MPAA Rating: R for some sexual content
Running Time: 94
Date: 08/09/2013

Prince Avalanche (2013)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Straight Lines

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Director David Gordon Green appears to have found his home ground with Prince Avalanche. This is a director who made one of the most striking American debuts of the past twenty years with George Washington (2000). It was a quiet, lyrical, beautiful, poetic look at the shabby residents of a backwoods town. He made a few more movies of that type before it occurred to someone that Green, in real life, is pretty goofy and funny, so why not let him try a comedy?

He did, and the result was the terrific Pineapple Express (2008). Unfortunately, his next two, Your Highness and The Sitter (both 2011), failed to find their audiences. So with Prince Avalanche, Green has cleverly combined these two filmmaking styles. He has taken funny actors and given them a serious situation; they work in a funny occupation in a serious setting. (The movie screened at last spring's San Francisco International Film Festival.)

Alvin (Paul Rudd) loves his job painting lines on obscure highways. He enjoys the solace the job brings. Right now he's painting lines through a recently burned section of Texas; the woodsy landscape is strange and beautiful at the same time.

Alvin has agreed to bring his girlfriend's brother, Lance (Emile Hirsch) on board as well. (Their names together sound a little like "avalanche.") Lance doesn't take the job as seriously as Alvin does. They argue over things like the music they listen to, and just about everything else. When the weekend arrives, Lance announces that he's going to go get laid, etc.

The movie never leaves the job site, and we never see Lance's adventures in town. When he returns, after some time sulking, he reluctantly tells his stories of failure back to Alvin. Alvin tries to give some advice, and they go back to work. Unfortunately, Alvin receives news that causes his world to come crashing down around him, and causes the two men to relate in an entirely new way.

Prince Avalanche eventually becomes like a play, wherein both characters reveal pretty much everything about themselves over the course of a drunken day. It's a pretty simple movie. Green apparently got the title from a dream, and snagged the plot from an unknown Icelandic movie. In-between, he plays up Rudd's humorous line deliveries, the odd surroundings provide some surreal moments (as when Alvin speaks to the old lady roaming through the burned remains of her home), and the "bromance" results in some emotional closure.

What I like best about this movie is that it never resorts to the typical "bromance," or "mismatched partner" movie formula. No one deliberately lies or withholds information, and there are no stupid villains, or chase scenes or anything phony. This is all about two lost, interesting characters trying to size one another up and get to the heart of things. It's funny, truthful, and touching, all things that seem to be growing ever scarcer in movies these days.{subid}&url=hitlist.asp?searchfield=marvel
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