MRR Review: "Prince Avalance"

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An odd couple of sorts, meditative and stern Alvin (Paul Rudd) and his girlfriend’s brother, Lance (Emile Hirsch), dopey and insecure, leave the city behind to spend the summer in solitude repainting traffic lines down the center of a country highway ravaged by wildfire. As they sink into their job in the remarkable landscape, they learn more than they want to about each other and their own limitations.
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MRR Review: "Prince Avalance"

Rating: R (some sexual content)
Length: 94 minutes
Release Date: August 9, 2013
Directed by: David Gordon Green
Genre: Comedy/Drama

Some people don't know quite where their place is in the world and yearn to be something they may not be. Alvin (Paul Rudd) is one of these people because he yearns to be a sporty outdoorsman, yet hasn't really spent a lot of time out in nature. That all changes one summer when he's hired to repaint the traffic lines in and around a local state park that was ravaged by fires. He jumps at the opportunity for some solitude and the chance to spend time in the great outdoors.

It turns out Alvin's relationship with girlfriend Madison (Gina Grande) has been very rocky as of late. Her errant brother Lance (Emile Hirsch) needs a job and some kind of aim in life beyond just hanging out with girls and trying to get into their pants. Madison encourages Alvin to take Lance with him in the hope he'll stop wandering aimlessly through life. Alvin reluctantly does so because he hopes it will earn him favor with her. Since he'll be staying at the state park all summer, camping out in a tent at night, he also hopes his absence will make her heart grow fonder.

Instead of being able to enjoy being outside and doing manual labor, Alvin finds himself exasperated with Lance, who isn't the sharpest tool in the shed. Their pained interactions are at once awkward and hilarious as they try fruitlessly to find something in common. When Gina breaks up with Alvin, their relationship is tested even further as Alvin has a hard time being around her brother without remembering what he lost. It leads to a wild session of binge drinking, soul searching, and bonding that may actually allow these two men to find some common ground. Does this mean they'll become fast friends, or will each man have to strike out on his own to an unknown future?

"Prince Avalanche" is set in a rural part of Texas in 1988, and part of the backdrop of the story is that the area has been ravaged by forest fires. It just so happens that in 2011, a rural area surrounding the city of Bastrop, Texas, suffered a similar fate. By the time the movie began principal photography in 2012, the area still hadn't recovered, making Bastrop State Park the perfect setting. The background looks sparse and bare, which helps set the tone for the film. As these two men with stagnant lives begin to finally break free of their metaphorical chains, the background of burnt, leafless tress looks less foreboding, and little signs of new growth are springing up. Up until that point though, those ominous trees are like a third main character without any lines, quietly setting the stage for all the interactions to come.

Director David Gordon Green is no stranger to quirky characters, having helmed films like "All the Real Girls" and "Pineapple Express," which are chock full of them. Here, he makes great use of two oddballs who don't have enough self awareness to realize they don't quite fit in with others. He served as both director and writer, penning the script as an adaptation from a story by Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurdsson. The film feels like Green is going back to his indie roots, where he made quiet indie dramas like "Snow Angels" before going mainstream with stoner comedies and the HBO series "Eastbound and Down." Though there's plenty of comedy and levity in the film, it's also a very dramatic film that deftly mixes the elements of Green's past films along with parts of his current repertoire. The combination is a part of what makes the movie so much fun to watch.

The other reason why the film is so much fun is because of Rudd, who has charm oozing out of his pores. He's an extremely likable actor who made a name for himself in dramas like "Romeo + Juliet" long before he became known as a comedy actor in such fare as "I Love You, Man." He can clearly do both genres, and sometimes both at the same time as he's asked to do repeatedly here. It's yet another example of why Rudd is on the cusp of becoming a true movie star who can carry a film all on his own. Though Hirsch is fantastic in his role as well, this is Rudd's movie, and he throws it over his shoulders and carries it across the finish line in triumphant fashion.

Rating: 3 out of 5