DVD Review: Prince Avalanche

Director David Gordon Green got his start with indie films. My first introduction to him was Snow Angels (2007) which I wasn’t a huge fan of. It was very depressing and kind of meandered about. Then suddenly he was directing big budget Hollywood comedies and just like that he pumped out Pineapple Express, Your Highness and The Sitter. Well, it seems Green is sick of the big budget Hollywood game, because he’s returned to his indie roots with Prince Avalanche, a film that cost less that a million bucks to make.

Starring Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch, Avalanche tells the story of two road workers, Alvin (Rudd) and Lance (Hirsch), Alvin’s girlfriend’s younger brother. Alvin and Lance don’t get a long very well and it’s obvious from the get go that the only reason Lance is there is as a favor to his sister. However, as they film progress the relationship between Alvin and Lance grows and the two men begin to bond, even if other parts of their lives are falling apart.

Avalanche is a pensive, quiet film about two men out in the wild learning about themselves and the person they’re working with. When one thinks Paul Rudd movies, this is not the kind of film that comes to mind, and this is a good thing. Rudd is great in this film and really shows off an impressive range of acting here. He lets some of his comic chops shine when appropriate, but most of the film is rather sad.

It’s a slow film that’s not in a hurry to get anyway where, but somehow the film doesn’t drag, which is an impressive feat in of itself. Many filmmakers attempt this precarious balance and fail, but Green succeeds admirably. It almost feels like there is a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde thing going on with Green, on one hand he makes these wildly outlandish big budget comedies, and on the other hand he makes this quit solemn low budget indie flicks. It is to his credit that he is able to succeed at both, though not always (I wasn’t a big fan of Your Highness).

There is a very striking moment in the film when Alvin comes across an older woman sifting through the wreckage of her burned down house. The woman is Joyce Payne and she is playing herself. Those are really the ashes of her house she is sifting through, making the scene all the more sad.

The film has many scenes like this. Stuff that the crew obviously stumbled upon and decided to fit into the film. Again, this kind of filmmaking is very tricky to make work, yet this film is edited together in a way that these aside scenes fit into the film and feel like they belong.

This isn’t a film everyone is going to enjoy. It’s not a laugh a minute like most Rudd films, but if you’re as big a Rudd fan as I am then you will enjoy seeing him tackle a slightly more serious subject… and his mustache is pretty sweet too.

The film is presented in a 2.35:1 widescreen format and Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound. For such a low budget film it looks fantastic, you would never guess that it cost less than a million to make and was shot in 16 days. This movie is what indie filmmaking is all about.

Sadly there are no special features.

As I wasn’t a big fan of Snow Angels I was worried going into another David Gordon Green indie film, but he hit this one of out of the park. Whenever I think about making a low budget film, I think about something long the lines of this. The great performances from Rudd and Hirsch really make their characters and story believable.

Magnolia Pictures presents Prince Avalanche. Written and Directed by David Gordon Green. Based on the Islandic film “Either Way” by Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurðsson. Starring: Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch. Running time: 94 minutes. Rating: R. Released: November 12, 2013.

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