David Gordon Green’s PRINCE AVALANCHE is a touching yet understated opening to the YOUNG AMERICANS strand of the festival programme.
The film is a classic road movie about a pair of maintenance workers who are re-painting the lines on the roads, following devastating forest fires in Texas in 1987. The opening shots of the fires themselves hint that the film is not going to be a conventional and obvious comedy, like Green’s most well-known film PINEAPPLE EXPRESS – they are all the more striking for being unexpected, giving an early indication of the tragicomic nature of the film.
The performances of the film’s two leads are strong enough to carry a meandering and sometimes surreal plot. Paul Rudd’s performance as the tragicomic Alvin is particularly good, his pomposity qualified by melancholy as the character is too contemplative for his own good. Emile Hirsch’s Lance provides a good contrast, appearing without pretension (although also without forethought for anything apart from his libido). Rudd’s character is funny because he doesn’t realise how ridiculous he is, although that is also endearing. Both characters are likeable despite some profoundly irritating traits.
… in real life there are no tidy endings.
In the grand tradition of road movies, the main subject matter of the film is the relationship between thinking man Alvin and feckless Lance, and how they influence each other and are affected by their relationships to others. Lance’s sister Madison, who is also Alvin’s girlfriend, rarely appears on screen – although she is a near constant presence. Women are the mostly unseen (and sometimes wilfully unseen) drivers of the story and catalysts for change. Alvin’s relationship with Madison and Lance’s quest to “get the little man squeezed” are key, but women are mostly kept at a literal and figurative distance; it is the masculine relationship that is important here.
The comedy in the film is largely subtle, apart from the occasional obvious moment – Lance LeGault as Truckdriver provides flashes of humour which work especially well when compared against the glimpses of destruction of people’s lives and vast swathes of woodland in the fire. An ongoing dispute over a boombox and the practicalities of living in such close proximity to another person provide a familiar humour which helps to make the film feel real, and this is supported rather than undermined by occasional surreal moments. The relationship between Alvin and Lance is multi-layered and authentically complex, and the (limited) growth of the characters by the end is satisfyingly believable. Certainly parts of PRINCE AVALANCHE feel unresolved but this is appropriate for the genre and the mood of the film – in real life there are no tidy endings.
PRINCE AVALANCHE screens on the 23rd at 15.45. Click here to book tickets.