Alvin is a public works employee repairing the road signs and marking on the roads through remote areas of Texas after the forest fires of 1987. He has employed his girlfriend’s brother, Lance, who is a wild, hedonist youth with no real interest in the work and the solitude of the work that Alvin so enjoys. The men camp by the side of the road during the work-week with Alvin staying there over the weekend whilst Lance goes back into town to drink and chase women. Alvin sends most of his money to Madison, Lance’s sister, who is a single mother, so she doesn’t have to work and can concentrate fully on raising her child but he never visits her. Soon this relationship and the men’s completely opposite outlooks on life and responsibility clash and things build to head with the men only have each other to relate to…
This is a strange, arty, independent film and a remake of the one the writer’s original Icelandic film. The roads in Iceland can be remote and barren and using the large remote areas of Texas, ruined, burnt and apocalyptic after the huge forest fires of the eighties makes complete sense and enhances the feeling of solitude and isolation in a large western country.
Any film with the premise this one presents, mainly two different characters doing a mundane job bouncing of each other in a mild antagonist way, is only as strong as the two actors playing these roles.
Luckily Prince Avalanche has two strong leads, Paul Rudd, playing against type but somewhat in his ‘area’ and Emile Hirsch, looking like Jack Black’s long lost son somewhat, help carry the film and certainly kept me watching, whereas two lesser skilled actors may well have had me turning off and watching something else.
Rudd plays a responsible man trying to play it straight and do the right thing but also avoiding his responsibilities to a tee and is utterly believable, I will admit I am an admirer of Mr. Rudd and always take something out work he does. The revelation for me was Emile Hirsch an actor I am not fully familiar with, but who like Rudd, plays an important role in a believable manner. I fully believed his 'booze and women' persona with an underlying softness that all lads have and work so hard to hide.
The film is infused with mysterious touches, the men meet a drunken truck driver and Alvin meets a woman raking through her burnt down house. Later they see her walking along the road and Lance sees here leaving the cab of the truck driver and both times the driver cannot see her. What is going on? Director Green gives no answers and leaves the viewer to make their own mind up. Good, someone not pandering to the audience.
This type of film is definitely not going to appeal to everyone. I can see how it would seem slow, talky, and nothing happens for many viewers. From my own personal point of view as a young lad who watched some strange foreign-language films on BBC2 and became enamoured with them and I still like quirky films that make me think and laugh.
Sure the film maybe drags in the middle and the mysterious elements can seem a bit forced and artificial but overall Alvin and Lance’s story is clearly a metaphor for life with Alvin being the older responsible self and Lance being the younger careless fool – from that point you can take off and see the film and the story it tells anyway. This is the strength of the film as you can really build your own narrative and what the film is really about from the beginning.
Whatever you think, the film is beautifully filmed in a haunting barren landscape, well-acted and manages to be sad, strange and funny at points throughout.
Not for everyone but it is for me.
Paul Rudd proves he is a fine actor, I told you so…