Movie Review: Prince Avalanche


There aren’t many jobs around that could possibly be less exciting than painting yellow lines down the middle of a road… unless, of course, the road is in the middle of nowhere. The indie film PRINCE AVALANCHE is the story of two men who have that job. But the film is more than just getting the line right down the middle. It’s about two seemingly different guys who themselves are trying to meet in the middle.

Alvin is a 30-something year-old bachelor. He takes life very seriously, probably too seriously for the good of his own mental health. He has a girlfriend but one would suspect that their relationship has never made it past first base. As a favour to his girlfriend but possibly just to impress her, he hires her rather irresponsible younger brother, Lance, to join him painting the road. While Alvin sees the work as an opportunity to clear his head, Lance sees it as easy money, which he plans to spend on beer and women on his weekends off. As much as Alvin considers himself to be an erudite and responsible guy who is ideal marriage material, Lance considers himself to be a party boy who is just out to get laid. But neither is either. They just don’t realise it.

Imagine the original ODD COUPLE, Felix and Oscar, put them in a post-fire ravaged Texas backwoods and you’ve got Alvin and Lance. Alvin is fussy while Lance is a bit of a slob. Alvin relishes the solitude, which gives him a chance to listen to his German language cassette tapes and write flowery letters to Lance’s sister (it’s pre-digital 1988, after all). Lance crudely admits that being out in nature gets him horny. Their self-imposed exile gives them an opportunity to get to know each other better and they end up bickering about almost everything. Once they are done ripping off each other’s façade, the only place left to attack is themselves… and they don’t like what they find. Alvin realises that he’s not as cool as he thought he was while Lance admits that he has become too “old and fat” to compete with the younger guys.

PRINCE AVALANCHE is a very slow film but it keeps moving only just fast enough to hold our attention thanks to the acting of its two stars. Paul Rudd, who is well known for his comedies, is superb as the pathetically stiff, Alvin, who probably just needs a good lay. Emile Hirsch, who looks like a young Jack Black, has already starred in a few heavyweight films (MILK; INTO THE WILD) in his young career. He, though, is thoroughly convincing as the clueless buffoon, Lance.

The story is based on the 2011 Icelandic film, EITHER WAY, which won six awards both at home and at various film festivals in Europe. I can see this film being set in Iceland’s barren wilderness. When there’s not much to look at, you’ve got to start getting real with yourself. Alvin and Lance are not really likeable characters but their awkwardness invokes sympathy. As they both come to the understanding of who they really are, you want them to succeed and move forward in life.

This film is not scheduled to come to Hong Kong (again, no surprise) so if you can find it in a video store or online, go rent or buy it. Be warned, though. It is slow.

Listen to the review online on Radio 4. (Click on the link. Select Part 2 and slide the time bar over to 31:15.)

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To see just how funny Paul Rudd can be, check out this recent video from The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. Excellent!

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