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Sundance '13 Review: PRINCE AVALANCHE w/ Paul Rudd & Emile Hirsch

Director/Screenwriter: David Gordon Green

Cast: Paul Rudd, Emile Hirsch, Lance LeGault, Joyce Payne

Soundtrack: Explosions in the Sky, David Wingo

Synopsis: An odd couple of sorts, meditative and stern Alvin and his girlfriend’s brother, Lance, 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. An unlikely friendship develops through humor and nasty exchanges, leading to surprising affection. 

Story and Direction

After helming a couple of big-budget studio comedies, David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express, Your Highness) returns to Sundance with a smaller and sweeter comedy gem. This was an unconventional film all around for the writer/director who started with the title - which bares no meaning, he just thought it sounded cool - and was then turned onto the Icelandic film Either Way, which he adapted into what became Prince Avalanche. Even with some fairly high profile actors, the production remained mostly under wraps until they announced that it would be premiering at Sundance. 

In order to set up the daily routine of Alvin (Rudd) and Lance (Hirsch), the opening of the movie has almost no dialogue. The slower paced intro also has these really great, long shots of this Texas forest that has been absolutely ravaged by wildfire, that give you an idea of just how secluded these characters are. Setting the story in 1987, before the days of Skype and smart phones, also served to keep the characters truly disconnected from the rest of civilization. We never leave this forest, even when the characters do. We are only clued into their relationships and lives outside of work from what they tell each other. This makes for some hilarious conversations between Rudd and Hirsch, and it always has you questioning how truthful they are being with each other, and more importantly with themselves.

Hirsch and Rudd aren't your typical comedic duo, but it's a dynamic that was executed superbly in the way Gordon Green tailored the roles for these actors, and how much freedom they were given to direct themselves at times and really explore their characters and push their performances.

Performances

Paul Rudd is always solid and gives a strong turn as Alvin, a lover of the outdoors who enjoys the alone time that his job gives him. Rudd's impeccable delivery always leaves you wondering which lines were improvised and which were scripted. Hirsch commented in the Q&A after the screening that while watching the film even he couldn't distinguish which lines that Rudd had come up with. He's just that "smooth." 

In one of the best roles of his career, Emile Hirsch plays Lance, a cocky slacker who is going stir crazy without females to interact with. Hirsch is mostly known for his dramatic work, and his comedic talent has really been underrated, or at least he hasn't been given enough opportunity to show off that part of his range. He does an absolutely fantastic job in this film, and owns some of the most memorable moments. You can almost picture Green putting frequent collaborator Danny McBride in this role, but Hirsch's boyish looks and earnest charm is just what this character needed to stay likable.

Lance LeGault, who sadly passed away shortly after production wrapped, gives the most gut-busting performance in the film. In the few appearances he makes as a hospitable yet brutally frank truck driver, he gets the biggest laughs from the audience.

Similar To

This is a much different and tamer comedy than we've been used to lately from Green. It's mostly kid friendly--there's surprisingly no profanity in the film aside from a little innuendo. Rudd's straightlaced contemplative character somewhat forced to babysit Hirsch as the fun-loving slacker is akin to the David Spade/ Chris Farley type relationships from Tommy Boy and Black Sheep.

Chances You'll See It in Theaters

This isn't as marketable as Green's more recent offerings, but with the stellar duo of Rudd and Hirsch headlining the pic, it should at the very least get a limited theatrical release.

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