Prince Avalanche

prince avalanche

  • Partially because it takes showing not telling to an admirable extreme, Prince Avalanche is two-thirds an excellent character study. But it feels unfinished.
  • As Alvin, Paul Rudd plays against type, and he does it excellently, showing emotional depth he rarely exhibits. It is a terrific performance, one worth viewing on its own terms, for its own merits.
  • The same can be said for Emile Hirsch, although his isn’t new, per se. Throughout Killer Joe (2011), for example, Hirsch shows the same flair for playing stupidity without making it stereotype, without taking it too far. Nonetheless, while it isn’t unique for Hirsch, his performance as Lance is captivating and worth viewing.
  • The actors anchor Prince Avalanche, but the camera gives it depth, not only because the shots themselves are universally beautiful, but also because it communicates the picture’s principle theme, basically without the aid of dialogue. It is through the camera that we see Writer/Director David Gordon Green’s observations of the interplay between human beings and nature. There are no melodramatic scenes and almost zero dialogue telling us how the two impact one another, but we still understand Green’s message, because he and Cinematographer Tim Orr show us what they do not tell us.
  • Green and Rudd do the same with Alvin’s characterization. The man seems organized, orderly and intelligent, but the actor and filmmaker give us enough clues that we understand most of his persona is an act. He is as directionless as his younger co-worker.
  • Sadly, Lance is not as well drawn, no doubt because he’s not written with the same subtlety. His horniness and stupidity (did he really say “labortion”) are communicated with dialogue that is too direct.
  • But Prince Avalanche’s biggest misstep is that it ends too soon. By the film’s conclusion, Lance and Alvin find common ground, even friendship, and Lance is willing to be decent to the woman who’s life he’s inadvertently turned upside down, but neither character appears to have new direction in life. Their story never feels finished, because Green never defines its purpose in the first place. We do not gain insight from these men, so we do not know why they matter, really.
  • Similarly, we do not know what consequences the men face for their drunken destruction.
  • Finally, there are several scenes in Prince Avalanche that feel out of place: Alvin pantomiming a normal life in a fire-destroyed home, the supernatural lady (Joyce Payne) exiting and entering the oddball truck driver’s (Lance Le Gault) rig, and even the truck driver giving the lead characters moonshine, without prompt or seeming motivation.
  • I wish Prince Avalanche had been thirty minutes longer, had tied together its loose ends and finished Lance and Alvin’s stories. If it had, it might have been a superior film, instead of an average one.
  • Final Grade: C

13 thoughts on “Prince Avalanche

  1. I really liked this film for many reasons, but the main one being that it was so nice to see Gordon Green back to doing real, honest and emotional movies. Good review.

    • I remember you liking it. You’re review was why I prioritized seeing this one to the extent I did. 😉

      And I liked the 2/3 of a movie he put forth, too. I just wish he’d included the other 1/3. 😉

      And I will say I loved … Loved … Loved Pineapple Express. One of the best comedies in recent memory, as far as I’m concerned. I haven’t seen his other work.

  2. Hmmmm… I watched this movie this weekend and I was rather torn between it. I really wanted to like it but something didn’t really… gel. Great review though!

  3. Nice review; I hunted it down because I just watched this recently. I think I liked it a little more than you. It’s a very small film, but I sort of enjoyed its stubborn refusal to have any kind of traditional character arc for either character. While their friendship does solidify over the course of the film, there’s no real sense that they’ve grown as people (nor that the friendship has any kind of permanence), which I enjoyed – in a naturalistic tale like this, I don’t need a Hollywood cookie-cutter character arc! I also think the woman and the truck driver bit, weird as it was, was necessary; I kinda felt that the key theme of the film was lying – not in a malevolent way, but the way people lie to themselves and their friends to save face, to present an image of themselves they desire. I haven’t quite puzzled it out, but I think Gordon Green was going for something along those lines…

    • He might have been. That theme didn’t occur to me, and I haven’t seen anyone else talk about it, which doesn’t tell me it wasn’t there. It tells me it might have been communicated a bit too obtusely.

      Anyway, yours is the best argument I’ve heard in favor of this film’s resolution yet. After puzzling over your point for several minutes, I’m sincerely uncertain whether or not you’ve changed my mind.

      In the end, I think I agree with you, but still wish Prince Avalanche had given more … something. While I don’t need a fully fleshed out coming of age for either character, I feel like something to tie together the unfinished threads would have helped the movie.

      But I’m not sure. I need to think about it more.

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