Reviews

'Prince Avalanche': David Gordon Green's Quiet Comedy

Lance and Alvin's conversation forms the film's action, such as it is, and on occasion, when even this fades into silence, Prince Avalanche offers its most compelling moments.


Prince Avalanche

Director: David Gordon Green
Cast: Paul Rudd, Emile Hirsch, Lance LeGault, Joyce Payne
Rated: R
Studio: Magnolia Pictures
Year: 2013
US date: 2013-08-09 (Limited release)
UK date: 201310-18 (General release)
Website
Trailer

David Gordon Green made his name as a director with small, lyrical movies like George Washington (2000) and All the Real Girls (2003). Since then, he's moved on to bigger-budget, incident-filled fare like The Sitter and Pineapple Express. During this transition, Green maintained the trademarks of his indie movies -- for example, beautiful visual compositions, with the help of longtime cinematographer Tim Orr -- but Prince Avalanche still feels like a return to an earlier version of Green, when his movies were much quieter.

Based loosely on Icelandic film Either Way (Á annan veg), Prince Avalanche focuses on just two characters: Alvin (Paul Rudd) and Lance (Emile Hirsch) are a mismatched pair doing roadwork in a woodsy, fire-damaged area of Texas in 1988. Alvin hires Lance out of loyalty to his unseen girlfriend -- Lance's sister -- but apart from the one familial connection, the two share no common ground.

Lance bristles at the loneliness of their surroundings and looks forward to the weekend when he can head to town for parties and women; Alvin, who considers himself an intellectual, appreciates the solitude of the forest and enjoys writing letters and living off the land. Together, they paint yellow lines in the street, hammer posts into the side of the road, share nights in the same tent, and, occasionally, talk about what's been bothering them in their lives.

Their testy conversation forms the film's action, such as it is, and on occasion, when even this fades into silence, Prince Avalanche offers its most compelling moments. A pre-titles montage shows Alvin and Lance getting ready for their workday, a weekend Alvin spends alone fishing, camping, and then again, digging through rubble while Lance is in town. The images remind us of Green's earlier work, as wide shots of Texas landscapes are simultaneously beautiful and burned out, while feeling almost dreamlike. This feeling is recalled throughout the film by music from Texas band Explosion in the Sky and composer David Wingo that almost sounds like a contemporary Tangerine Dream.

The feeling also informs the plot, which is less eventful than capricious. Alvin and Lance's limited contact with other people suggests a dream's illogic: an odd, unnamed truck driver, played by Lance LeGault, shows up at random to give the boys moonshine, and a sad woman (Joyce Payne) appears briefly rifling through the remains of her old house. Each encounter is so offbeat and isolated that afterward it's possible to question the reality of the interactions. "Sometimes I feel like I'm digging in my own ashes," the woman says, as if searching for proof of her own existence.

But even as such episodes might seem bleak, Prince Avalanche remains resiliently funny. If there's one thing Green has carried over from Pineapple Express and Your Highness, it's silliness. This even as the new movie also resists the conventional aspects of that lesson: it may be painted with the same buddy-comedy brush as those films, but the description would be inaccurate here, since Alvin and Lance never develop a friendship. Instead of a movie where two people learn to accept the flaws in each other, Prince Avalanche is a movie about two people inhabiting the same space who learn to accept the flaws in themselves, even if these flaws are made up. Lance observes that they're both "old fatties" (not true), Alvin minces his way through what an intellectual's vision of an outdoorsman would be, and both argue about the "equal time agreement" on their shared boombox and chase each other around the woods. It's some of the most enjoyable bickering ever put to screen.

The arguments help to build a rhythm in Prince Avalanche, punctuating the quieter moments and shaping the relationship. Both Lance and Alvin repeat the phrase, "Can't we just enjoy the silence?", usually when they don't want to answer a question. But sometimes, questions are best left unanswered. And with Prince Avalanche, David Gordon Green shows us that yes, we definitely can just enjoy the silence.

7

Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

A Certain Ratio Return with a Message of Hope on 'ACR Loco'

Inspired by 2019's career-spanning box set, legendary Manchester post-punkers A Certain Ratio return with their first new album in 12 years, ACR Loco.

Books

Oscar Hijuelos' 'Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love' Dances On

Oscar Hijuelos' dizzyingly ambitious foot-tapping family epic, Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love, opened the door for Latinx writers to tell their stories in all their richness.

Music

PM Picks Playlist 2: Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES, SOUNDQ

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES' stunning dream folk, Polish producer SOUNDQ, the indie pop of Pylon Heights, a timely message from Exit Kid, and Natalie McCool's latest alt-pop banger.

Film

'Lost Girls and Love Hotels' and Finding Comfort in Sadness

William Olsson's Lost Girls and Love Hotels finds optimism in its message that life tears us apart and puts us back together again differently.

Music

Bright Eyes' 'Down in the Weeds' Is a Return to Form and a Statement of Hope

Bright Eyes may not technically be emo, but they are transcendently expressive, beatifically melancholic. Down in the Weeds is just the statement of grounding that we need as a respite from the churning chaos around us.

Film

Audrey Hepburn + Rome = Grace, Class, and Beauty

William Wyler's Roman Holiday crosses the postcard genre with a hardy trope: Old World royalty seeks escape from stuffy, ritual-bound, lives for a fling with the modern world, especially with Americans.

Music

Colombia's Simón Mejía Plugs Into the Natural World on 'Mirla'

Bomba Estéreo founder Simón Mejía electrifies nature for a different kind of jungle music on his debut solo album, Mirla.

Music

The Flaming Lips Reimagine Tom Petty's Life in Oklahoma on 'American Head'

The Flaming Lips' American Head is a trip, a journey to the past that one doesn't want to return to but never wants to forget.

Music

Tim Bowness of No-Man Discusses Thematic Ambition Amongst Social Division

With the release of his seventh solo album, Late Night Laments, Tim Bowness explores global tensions and considers how musicians can best foster mutual understanding in times of social unrest.

Music

Angel Olsen Creates a 'Whole New Mess'

No one would call Angel Olsen's Whole New Mess a pretty album. It's much too stark. But there's something riveting about the way Olsen coos to herself that's soft and comforting.

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

Masma Dream World Go Global and Trippy on "Sundown Forest" (premiere)

Dancer, healer, musician Devi Mambouka shares the trippy "Sundown Forest", which takes listeners deep into the subconscious and onto a healing path.

Music

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" Is an Ode for Unity in Troubling Times (premiere)

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" is a gentle, prayerful tune that depicts the heart of their upcoming album, Crucible.

Music

'What a Fantastic Death Abyss': David Bowie's 'Outside' at 25

David Bowie's Outside signaled the end of him as a slick pop star and his reintroduction as a ragged-edged arty agitator.

Music

Dream Folk's Wolf & Moon Awaken the Senses with "Eyes Closed" (premiere)

Berlin's Wolf & Moon are an indie folk duo with a dream pop streak. "Eyes Closed" highlights this aspect as the act create a deep sense of atmosphere and mood with the most minimal of tools.

Television

Ranking the Seasons of 'The Wire'

Years after its conclusion, The Wire continues to top best-of-TV lists. With each season's unique story arc, each viewer is likely to have favorites.

Film

Paul Reni's Silent Film 'The Man Who Laughs' Is Serious Cinema

There's so much tragedy present, so many skullduggeries afoot, and so many cruel and vindictive characters in attendance that a sad and heartbreaking ending seems to be an obvious given in Paul Reni's silent film, The Man Who Laughs.

Music

The Grahams Tell Their Daughter "Don't Give Your Heart Away" (premiere)

The Grahams' sweet-sounding "Don't Give Your Heart Away" is rooted in struggle, inspired by the couples' complicated journey leading up to their daughter's birth.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.