There weren’t many indie flicks that stood out to me, punched me in the cheek and yelled “watch me” in 2013, but among the few that did do that was a little bitty picture named “Prince Avalanche”.
Directed and penned by David Gordon Green (Undertow, Pineapple Express) and based on the novel “Either Way” by Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurðsson, Prince Avalanche is the sort of film, in my view, that 2013 needed, certainly for me. In a year packed full of mega-budget smash hit movies with explosions, gloss and expense, there was a need for something grounded, rural and cathartic to cut through like a lime wedge on a stick of butter. Prince Avalanche, in many ways, did just that.
Paul Rudd (This Is 40) and Emile Hirsch (Into the Wild) are two road workers who spend the summer months of 1988 painting markers on the rustic and fire tattered roads outside of Austin, Texas. The minimalist synopsis is as clear headed as the film itself, which through a variety of strange and at times absurd happenings is always truly honest and simple, like a good poem that is speaking openly yet saying very little, but in doing so is offering a sense of healing to either the author or the viewer.
The performances of the two leads are really what makes the film worth watching. Rudd is on form and his willingness to portray arrogance and stupidity with his entire being helps take a performance that might merely have been “okay” and allow it a chance to be pretty excellent. Hirsch does the same and his boyish energy and naivety makes for a fun dynamic between him and Rudd’s character. The relationship grows throughout the film, suffering hardship and at times even on-foot chase sequences. It’s a buddy movie with a difference.
The setting is lovely, with the trees, the burnt forestry, the muddy swamps and the grey skies often making it feel like it was shot in a much earlier time. There are moments when Green settles the camera on a sunset or a tree blowing in a breeze and in doing so makes the film feel like more than just a run-of-the-mill independent drama comedy, it has heart and looks beautiful.
It is easy to look for metaphors beneath the skin of the film, with its obvious concerns of hope, loss and loneliness and of living life rather than merely existing, but regardless of these ponderings, the film is just a very interesting and medicinal film. It, for me, offered an escape from the big and the brash, the loud and the radical, and provided me with an entertaining and at times just purely outlandish hour and a half.
It isn’t perfect but it doesn’t attempt to be, and in that way it is as charming as any small budget film I’ve seen in the last year. I recommend giving it a shot, you might like it, you might not, but it’s not worth ignoring either way.