Starting with a wondrous collage of footage of a burning forest set to a miraculous score by Explosions in the Sky and David Wingo, we find ourselves returning to the familiar Terrence Malick influences that we saw in David Gordon Green’s first film “George Washington”. David Gordon Green is a hard director to pin down. He started off with deep, sweaty introspective dramas such as the above-mentioned “George Washington”, “Undertow” and “Snow Angels”. He then turns around and does wall-to-wall dick-joke comedies such as “Pineapple Express” and “Your Highness”. The thing that makes him so interesting is he seems to do it all on his own terms. If we were to place “Prince Avalanche” on a scale in his filmography, it would land somewhere in between everything else, which is fitting as that’s what his principle characters in this film are: Somewhere In Between.
A remake of the Icelandic film “Either Way”, the film’s plot revolves around two men, Alvin and Lance, who spend the summer of 1988 repainting traffic lines on a burnt and scorched stretch of highway in the Texas wilderness.
Paul Rudd plays Alvin, a self-important man whose relationship with his girlfriend is failing, thought doing everything he can to convince himself otherwise. Emile Hirsch plays Lance, a late 20s man who is really an overgrown 10 year old, and is the brother to Alvin’s girlfriend. I’ve always found Rudd at his most entertaining when he plays a character so unlike Paul Rudd. Usually we find him as your average Joe who is indifferent to everyone else. Here he takes that familiar archetype and finally gives it real soul and contradiction. Hirsch plays his character’s stupidity with such honesty, it’s a reminder of just how talented he is. The chemistry between Hirsch and Rudd makes for raw comic enjoyment. Both characters are so rooted in their own beliefs that they can never understand the point of view of the other. Neither can consider the fact that they both might be wrong, resulting in some grounded hilarity. The comedy in this film comes from character interaction, and it’s rather effective both emotionally and comically.
The film could almost be a stage play with its primarily two-man show if not for the scenery -both lush, decayed and sometimes surreal. Rebirth seems to be an underlying theme of the piece. Just as the nature of the landscape is recovering from the fiery scourge, these two characters are forced to reinvent themselves when faced with their compromised masculinity. It’s no coincidence that the film ends with a shot of a mostly green landscape atop the burned ashes and children playing. Tragedy in its worst does not prevent life from continuing on.