In New York magazine's review of Admission, David Edelstein says of Paul Rudd, "Everybody doesn't like somebody, but nobody doesn't like Paul Rudd." In Prince Avalanche, Rudd attempts to cast off his universal affability. Rudd's Alvin is characterized by dismissive, elitist, self-conscious, and annoying tics. He says things like, "reap the rewards of solitude." He sits backwards in a chair when dispensing advice. Rudd skillfully delves into the soul of a pretentious, unlikable snob. Or as unlikable as it gets for Paul Rudd, anyway.
In David Gordon Green's Prince Avalanche, Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch play two young dudes hired to paint yellow lines on roadways previously destroyed by a forest fire in Texas. Yes, Emile Hirsch is camping again, but don't fear, this is no Into the Wild. Prince Avalanche is a sillier and much more profound take on self-exploration against the backdrop of exploring nature.
Based on the 2011 Icelandic film Either Way, Prince Avalanche begins in 1988 after forest fires in East Texas ravaged 1,100 acres of land. The backdrop of a forest fire is an easy metaphor, but a powerful one nonetheless. It's got catharsis, destruction, and rebirth entwined. The two men wind through the destroyed Texas landscape, passing pillars of burned trees, rolling a mechanical cart that drops yellow lines in the center of the road. It's a small, superficial effort to reinstate order after chaotic devastation.
Alvin has hired Hirsch's character, Lance to help him with roadwork, because he is Alvin's fiance's younger brother. At Lance, Hirsch plays dumb and he plays it well. Lance spouts malapropisms, doles out blank stares, and scratches his head in confusion. In a sentence that makes neither of them sound good, Alvin describes Lance as a young man who "quite realistically will never amount to anything."
They live together in close quarters and butt heads with Odd Couple-esque tension. Despite the cliche set-up, Prince Avalanche is not an overblown coming-of-age meets friendship-love bromance. While the characters do change each other—in subtle but intense ways—there is no forced impression they will remain best buddies. Actually, they never really become friends or even grow to like other. But they appreciate each other. Their tensions boil over and simmer down. We are shown a glimpse of each of their lives in which a happenstance exposure to a person they would usually dismiss leads to a growth in their individual characters, and when it's over, it's easy to imagine them resuming their lives as before.
In the wake of their respective romantic troubles, the men get mind-scrambling wasted and use the yellow line-painting machine to express their frustration, anger, and need for destruction on the blank slate of asphalt. They wheel that yellow paint into wild swirls and doodles. This is Prince Avalanche at its most profoundly silly and flippantly serious. It reveals this incredible human moment before someone sets course for the straight and narrow; but first, for a moment, they've just got to joyously mess shit up.
Go see Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch bond, brawl, booze, and evolve in Prince Avalanche. It's a thoroughly realized glimpse of a quietly extraordinary relationship.
Prince Avalanche is currently playing at the Tribeca Film Festival. It will be released later this year.