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Prince Avalanche Review: Choose Your Own Adventure Review

By Amanda Mae Meyncke | Film | August 9, 2013 |

By Amanda Mae Meyncke | Film | August 9, 2013 |

You remember Choose Your Own Adventure, correct? Well, because this movie is hard to talk about, and because we’re not above a good gimmick here at Pajiba, I present the Choose Your Own Adventure Review of Prince Avalanche.

1. David Gordon Green (Your Highness) has a new film out, it stars Paul Rudd (Dinner for Schmucks) and Emile Hirsch (Speed Racer). You have plenty of disposable income, and you like watching movies of all kinds. Do you want to see it?

Yes/Maybe/Convince me go to paragraph 2
No, go to paragraph 10

2. Though a movie is much more than just the summation of its plot, this film is set in 1988, and revolves around two road maintenance workers (Paul Rudd, Emile Hirsch) as they meander the highways in the wake of a devastating fire. They discuss their problems with women, and run into some quirky characters along the way, including a salty-mouthed truck driver who makes his own hooch and an older woman who lost her home in the fire. Still interested?

Yes, go to paragraph 3
No, go to paragraph 11

3. Prince Avalanche is beautiful, the cinematography will break your heart, and the music is so carefully selected and so moving, it doesn’t quite make sense of the subject matter. The story is based off an Icelandic film, Either Way and was shot very quickly. Knowing that off the bat makes a lot more sense of the strangeness of the story and the lack of action. Scandinavian and Icelandic film has a very mild, mannered approach and the value is placed in evoking a mood, however long that might take. Much of the film is spent watching these two men paint lines on the cement and glue down little road bumps, or watching them camp and fish — an exercise in patience. The film itself is casually funny at times although it often feels as if there’s too much open space for two slim bodies to fill, holding back as much as they do. But their conversations are funny and tender at times, trying to co-exist in the same space without much in common, the two men turn to topics both familiar and strange.

Do you like Paul Rudd? Go to 4
Do you like Emile Hirsch? Go to 5
Do you like both of them? Go to 7.


4. Paul Rudd always has an unmistakeable air of Paul Ruddy-ness about him, and this film only minorly downplays that. Rudd is mustachioed and meticulous about his work and the love he has for Hirsch’s sister, whom he has been writing letters to, and sending money to during their stint in the wilderness. He is a mild mannered man capable of taking care of himself, still given to exploring the natural world and hoping to better himself by listening to language tapes. Rudd’s character, Alvin, has an opportunistic and cheerful attitude about the solitary nature of their world. There’s something so sweet about how apparent his emotions are, and the evolving nature of his relationship with Hirsch, from relating to one another as a tired parent and belligerent son to wrestling with similar problems and finding equal footing. Rudd is easily the loveliest part of the film, though he could have lost himself further in the role.

Do you like David Gordon Green? Read Paragraph 6
Want to skip to the takeaway? Paragraph 9

5. Emile Hirsch always seemed to be a kind of Leonardo DiCaprio-lite, but as he continues to grow as an actor, it’s surprising how much he always manages to come across slightly differently in his roles. Here he plays the ever-horny Lance, who wants to get away from the monotonous work of fixing the roads and living in the forest and return to the city, where all the pretty young things are. Lance’s problems are those that accumulate when sex and partying is your single-minded obsession, but he’s a good kid, just young, dumb and bored. When the two men finally tire of each other and begin brawling in earnest, Hirsch is hilarious, all hurt feelings and childish grimacing.

Do you like David Gordon Green? Read Paragraph 6
Want to skip to the takeaway? Paragraph 9

6. David Gordon Green is a man of two minds, I suspect he’s someone who has found a way to nourish the two sides of himself, the kind that loves these slow moving, beautiful films that explore very human stories, and the kind that makes the big dumb stoner comedies that end up paying for him to be able to make these smaller films. It’s hard if you only love one of these things to understand what he’s doing making the other kind of movie, but there’s something more honest about this approach and it’d be interesting to see other directors compartmentalize their interests in this same way. Although is it better to get one Michel Gondry? Maybe he only has one interest and explores that more fully? Is it better to synthesize your interests or divide them up? Is it more of a way to protect yourself and your process? I really don’t know, but it’s interesting to think about.

Go to paragraph 9

7. Errrrrnnn, although I agree with you, that was perhaps a bit of laziness on your part. You must like one of them more than the other one, or, alternatively, you must not care about them, equally. How about a metaphor before I send you on your way? Just like they’re rebuilding the road, and just as the forest is recovering from the fire, so these two men are rebuilding their lives and struggling to find themselves.

The End, go back to 3

8. There is no paragraph eight, but I just wanted to say this movie is really hard to think about, and I went back and forth many times about what to say about it. In the end, your own expectations and how much you like DGG’s other movies will guide you best.

The End

9. Prince Avalanche is the kind of film that David Gordon Green excels at making. No, not like Your Highness, but more like All the Real Girls. Beautiful colors, remarkably soft lighting, music pairings that will make you feel feelings you’d forgotten how to feel. The real problem is that films like this don’t sell well. If he could make one a year, one beautiful, heartfelt, minimalist film a year, we’d be doing all right cinematically, but films like this one are a very hard sell except to a small group of movie-goers. While Prince Avalanche is by no means a perfect film — a bit boring at times — it’s the kind of movie that provides balance, giving us the small, considered lives of a few road maintenance workers and it would be very sad to see films like this disappear from the American movie experience. While everything must earn its place and this is the kind of film that will never be anyone’s favorite movie, there’s still plenty to like and love about it, losing yourself for an hour and a half in the light, colors and sound.

The End.

10. Let’s try that again. David Gordon Green (All the Real Girls) has a new movie out starring Paul Rudd (Wet Hot American Summer) and Emile Hirsch (Into the Wild). Do you want to see it?

Oh, yeah, now I do, go to paragraph 2
Nope, still not interested, go to paragraph 11

11. Bully for you, you know your mind and you’re not afraid to speak it. You don’t want to see this movie and you never did. Perhaps your reasons for not wanting to see it are good, like you read about it and the subject matter just didn’t interest you. But maybe your reasons are bad, like you are just lazy or finding out about new things is hard. That’s a terrible reason for not seeking out new movies, but I understand. Let’s shake on it, okay?

The End.

Amanda Mae Meyncke likes ice cream and talking everywhere.

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