One of the two promotional posters (below) for David Gordon Green‘s newest film Prince Avalanche features a traffic cone with a pair of aviator sunglasses placed on top. It is spot on. Let me explain: Lance (Emile Hirsch) dons these glasses and an LED wristwatch when he returns from a highly anticipated weekend in town. “$38” is all he cares to say about it. Alvin (Paul Rudd) is frustrated, to say the least, with Lance’s guarded personality and penchant for avoiding work. The story opens as Alvin and Lance rebuild and repaint their way through over a thousand square miles of East Texas forest that was ravaged by a wildfire in 1988. Opening on a shot of the forest up in flames (the first of countless captivating images by cinematographer and frequent Green collaborator Tim Orr), the mind-numbing work turns into a coming-again-of-age journey that is as simply funny as putting sunglasses on top of a traffic cone.
This is no Pineapple Express. Shot in 16 days on half a shoestring budget, Green (whose early work such as George Washington drew comparisons to Terrence Malick) experiences as much of a rebirth as his two main characters. Alvin’s transformation from an uptight workaholic whose leisure time is mostly spent listening to German-language tapes into someone who would skip work to get drunk and swing sledgehammers, begins when his girlfriend, Lance’s sister Madison (voiced by Lynn Shelton), sends him a letter politely informing him that they’re through. Needless to say, this doesn’t strengthen the bond between Alvin and his ex-girlfriend’s brother. “I get so horny out here in nature,” Lance says, succumbing to his diarrhea of the mouth. “Let’s just enjoy the silence,” Alvin reflexively repeats throughout. He has a number of quippy, yet profound, responses to Lance’s spewings—which I won’t divulge here—that you’ll probably want to make your next tweet.
We get a taste of the real Alvin early on—while fishing, he dances playfully ‘like no one is watching’, if you will—but that’s just it, he is alone. Conversely, Lance can only be himself when he is in good company. There is a sort of potential energy in the two men that build to a cathartic, booze-induced ending. It’s exactly what both of them need.
Perhaps what lifts Prince Avalanche from a simple art-house comedy to a thought-provocative and memorable creation by David Gordon Green is it’s two supporting players, the truck driver Lance LeGault and an older woman Alvin meets sifting through the rubble of her home. She is Joyce Payne, a woman whose home really was destroyed by recent wildfires in the filming location of Bastrop, TX. She explains the devastation to Alvin, who follows up the improvised scene with a funny-turned-sad miming of the home life he desperately wants, which the older woman surely used to have.
There are no jokes in this film (except for maybe Lance’s perfect chipmunks homage). If there were, the role of Alvin might be more suitable to someone named Jonah or Seth. But it’s funnier than any movie you’ll see this summer, a result of the top-notch performances by both Hirsch and Rudd–you’ve probably never seen them better. So go, and just enjoy the silence.