David Gordon Green is one of my personal favorite upcoming Hollywood directors, and perhaps one of the most intriguing directors in the industry. Green broke out on the independent scene with George Washington back in 2000. This rural tale was about a boy and his life in the slums. Green’s debut film was outstanding, creating an endlessly affecting drama that is shot with a true poetic beauty, giving the graffiti riddled streets a poetic look to them. Green then followed with three different indies All the Real Girls, Undertow, and Snow Angels. While these three were not as well received, they each have their fair share of fans and showed off Green’s versatility.
Then came a change in his career, when Green directed the stoner comedy Pineapple Express. While many were puzzled by Green’s jump into mainstream film, it was a largely funny and successful comedy. Green continued to flex his ambition to make comedies with his passion project You’re Highness and The Sitter. Both films were relatively poorly received, but were both enjoyable in my book. The best part about his work on both films is he truly took chances with them, and showed his potential to create mainstream and indie films. His latest Prince Avalanche combines both his mainstream and independent roots, and this possibly creates his best film yet.
After a horrible forest fire, two highway workers are sent to repair the roads in the desolate ruins. In the isolated area, the two experience misadventures and go through a journey of self-exploration.
The performances here are excellent, perhaps career bests for the two leads. Paul Rudd is one of the most charming actors in Hollywood, but has rarely had a vehicle that has suit his skills, but Prince Avalanche does. Rudd perhaps is playing his most flawed character yet, but his affability and charm in real life are displayed in his character. He just radiates them, and shows off his versatility by playing a far more off-kilter character than usual.
Playing off him exceptionally well is Emile Hirsch, who has a mixed resume for me. For every great performance like Into the Wild, he does a role like The Darkest Hour. Hirsch here shows off his talent, playing a very realized and likable character, despite his flaws. This character he played could have easily become a stereotype, yet Hirsch does a great job grounding him in reality, which is a tough task to complete. Both leads had great chemistry, and are really the heart and soul of the film.
The screenplay is fantastic. David Gordon Green’s adaptation of the Icelandic film Either Way combines his independent roots with his experience in R-rated mainstream comedy. The film is very funny, at points it’s bawdy, but with a very mature and reserved nature. It is not in your face with its raunchiness, but it uses these jokes in a far more intelligent way.
Green also does a tremendous job building up these characters. The character traits they have are not over-the-top like they are in most R-rated comedies, making these characters grounded in reality. Both leads in the film are flawed, but flawed in a very human way, and have plenty of depth to them.
The message in this film is simplistic in a way, but done with subtlety and care, giving what could be considered a standard issue message far more layers and depth. From the visuals, to the character’s actions, Green tells this message in many different forms, rather than just outright delivering the message, which takes skill.
The cinematography in the film is fantastic. Cinematographer Tim Orr along with Gordon Green’s direction create a beautiful film. From the details to the road, to the true nature of the area and the wide shots of the burnt down forest, Green does a great job of giving each shot in this film a true purpose and meaning to it.
Prince Avalanche is one of the year’s best works. Director and writer David Gordon Green takes what seems to be a simplistic concept, and gives it so much more depth and life, and even brought a tear to my eye. If you can catch it in a theater, do so, if not, it’s On Demand and on VOD right now.
Take a Shot: Each time the two leads drink.
Take a Drink: Every time a character runs like a chicken.
Take a Drink: For Paul Rudd’s mustache, live long and prosper!