By Leonard Maltin | Leonard Maltin August 9, 2013 at 12:03AM
Prince Avalanche is a difficult film to pigeonhole, and that's part of its appeal. Writer-director David Gordon Green, who made his name with a similarly meditative film, George Washington, based this elliptical character study on an Icelandic movie called Either Way, transposing its location to an area of Bastrup, Texas that was devastated by a forest fire.
His main characters are a purposeful fellow (Paul Rudd) pumped up with false bravado, and his girlfriend's aimless brother (Emile Hirsch), who's agreed to work with him on a government job designed for loners: repainting the center-line markers and installing reflective posts along the roadway in the midst of that dense forest land. Rudd is an enthusiastic outdoorsman who prides himself in his self-sufficiency, and stays in touch with his girlfriend by hand-writing her letters (the story takes place in 1987 before cell phones were ubiquitous). Hirsch is a hell-raiser who lives for the weekends when he can go drinking and carousing.
Filmmaker Green enjoys observing the behavior of his protagonists, and the very few people they encounter in their travels, but he is equally interested in how their contrasting personalities stand out against the harsh and lonely environment that surrounds them. Perhaps, he suggests, some relationships need to break down completely so they can be rebuilt, stronger than ever--like the land itself.
For some viewers, watching Prince Avalanche may seem like staring at water, waiting for it to boil. But if you derive satisfaction from watching two good actors breathe life into a pair of flawed, mismatched, but utterly believable characters, you will derive satisfaction from David Gordon Green's organic indie film.