March 24, 2023
Ithaca, NY | 37°F


Review: Sundance film shows stunning visuals

Emotional character dialogue complements rustic background

Prince Avalanche

David Gordon Green

With works such as “Pineapple Express” and “Your Highness” under his belt, director and writer David Gordon Green has made a name for himself in the screwball-comedy genre. Deviating from this, however, is his latest work, “Prince Avalanche,” which exudes equal beauty, heart and emotion in the plot and character dialogue to enchant the audience.

The film takes place in Texas during the 1980s along a road that stretches through the vast wilderness. The area had just previously been ravaged by a large-scale wildfire that left much of the land charred. Within this setting, the film follows two road workers, Alvin (Paul Rudd) and Lance (Emile Hirsch), who are repainting the lines on the road surrounded by the burnt land.

Alvin chooses the lonesome job because of his affinity for the peace and quiet of nature. Lance, a young party boy who is also the brother of Alvin’s girlfriend, was hired to assist him. As the unlikely pair progresses with the road project, the two characters reveal more about themselves through a series of squabbles that eventually lead to the confession of deep emotional truths.

Much of “Prince Avalanche”’s excellence stems from the memorable cinematography by Tim Orr who creates grand views that seem to focus more on each of the scene’s surroundings rather than the subjects. In one instance, when Lance chases after Alvin following a heated argument, the the anger between the characters remains central, but the shots predominantly display the surrounding trees. This act accentuates the juxtaposition of the dead and charred trees left over from the wild fire and the heated argument in the scene. Despite focusing heavily on the natural scenery, the film rarely strays from the dialogue between the characters.

Providing an ideal framework for the cinematography is the film’s screenplay. Green takes a simple premise and makes it into a full story that is enticing. He crafts all of the conversations between the two characters with language that is both truthful and engaging. The dialogue carries just enough wit to feel natural, spanning topics both broad and specific, like when the two characters discuss the importance of solitude or how to gut a fish.

However, the dialogue lacks comedy. Some exchanges reach for humor but often fall flat. This occurs most frequently when the two characters begin to quarrel, with their insults passing as lame attempts at jokes and coming out as rare, awkward moments of dialogue.

Rudd and Hirsch’s acting is a high point of the film. Both actors give heartfelt performances that make their characters relatable. This becomes apparent as each of their respective characters handles deep-seated emotional issues. Hirsch excels in displaying Lance’s immaturity, while Rudd is excellent in showing Alvin’s crippling inability to connect with others.

Overall, “Prince Avalanche” exudes beauty with natural imagery and has consistent believability with its engaging dialogue. These factors, along with the superb acting, make the small-budget indie a clear choice for all audiences.