It’s weird to think that the guy who directed Your Highness and The Sitter could craft such a beautiful film but its easy to forget that before those films director David Gordon Green was offering us such fantastic work such as George Washington and Pineapple Express. He works his magic again, in a return to the indie scene, with Prince Avalanche, a charming yet emotionally moving film that shows that solitude and loneliness don’t go hand and hand and that the right person can help you break from your funk.
Prince Avalanche stars Paul Rudd in easily his greatest performance to date. He becomes Alvin, a man with his future goals set in front of him and someone who is content with life. He is joined by Lance (Emile Hirsch) who is given the job solely based on being the brother of Alvin’s girlfriend. Alvin also believes that Lance needs a reality check and to get his life in order which is one of the largest struggle points during the film.
This back and forth between Alvin and Lance makes the movie. The performances of both actors pulls you into this struggle both internal and external. You are given these characters, both flawed in different yet oddly similar ways. Alvin is kind of pretentious. He thinks he knows everything and he looks down on Lance due to his lifestyle and the ways he presents himself. But Alvin’s biggest problem is that he doesn’t accept that human interaction and that act of humanity that is connecting with someone else. He thinks he does with his girlfriend but instead of being with her, he is off on the highways working on the roads.
Lance struggles with different issues but some of them ring the same as with Alvin. Lance is a free spirit who is partying first and dealing with life second. His personality conflicts with Alvin because he is well versed in connecting with humans as shown in the scene when he explains his weekend plans to Alvin. He talks of the girls he hopes to sleep with and he ones who he has slept with but doesn’t want to journey with again. He lives the life that Alvin wants no part of because of his feelings of already owning a connection with humanity.
What makes the film so special to me is how they treat these two men coming together. Rudd plays Alvin so well because even though he does not understand the lifestyle that Lance lives, he still shows an interest. He sparks conversation about the weekend and shows a vested interest in what is going on with Lance. Part of that is that those two are out in the middle of nowhere together for the whole summer but also I feel like some of it is Alvin’s subconscious desire to connect with others.
Outside of the performances, the direction of Gordon Green blew me away. The film at times felt like it was directed for an art house with close-ups and long takes of nature and just general tasks being performed by the two men in silence took up at least 20% of the film. It wasn’t boring but a beautiful and artsy touch to a film that was more about the growth of these characters rather than the scenery. All you needed to know about the landscape was that there wasn’t anyone else there.
Gordon Green also did a fantastic job of creating the solitude feeling. You felt as if there was nothing else there. In one scene when Lance had left Alvin in the woods to head back home for the weekend, the scene is made up of Alvin doing things around camp which included just walking around, reading, and painting. These tasks, done in the middle of the forest, seemed to personify Alvin’s character and show the place that he wanted to be, alone.
This solitude was the theme that carried throughout the film. Lance found the solitude to be something awful. It made him lonely, horny, and constantly desiring a return to humanity. Only when he returns from his weekend off is it that he realizes that maybe it is something that could be cherished a little more. Alvin finds the solitude to be a place to accomplish things. He studies German, paints, and reads and scowls at the lack of progress that Lance makes in his time alone.
Prince Avalanche is very touching and a film that made me enjoy having two likeable characters grow over the course of an hour and a half. It was one of the best films I have seen so far this year and one that took me by surprise.