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Wed August 28, 2013
Director: David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express)
Cast: Paul Rudd (This is the End), Emile Hirsch (Into the Wild)
Runtime: 94 min.
by John DeSando
“You tried kill yourself by jumping off a 12 foot cliff?” (Lance to Alvin)
I'm a sucker for minimalism and absurdism, the kind Samuel Beckett and Jerry Seinfeld make their own: terse dialogue about nothing that somehow elicits humor and becomes something deeper with thoughts about life, loss, and hope.
Writer-director David Gordon Green has crafted a simple bromatic morality tale of two guys painting road lines in 1988 after a forest fire near Austin, Texas. The purged, scorched landscape of the ravaged but beautiful Bastrop State Park serves as metaphor for the men/boys' cleansing journey marching toward a renewed life. One critic calls it “broken people in a broken forest.”
The larger concerns of the film, which is episodic with love and loss overlaying the quotidian activities of painting road lines, are manifold: In Alvin's (Paul Rudd) case, how can he keep his lover, Madison, when he is absent and really has little to offer? In Lance's (EmileHirsch) life, how can he mature enough to deal with the heartbreak his sister is causing Alvin by breaking up with him. Alvin and Lance’s conversation lightly brushes the issue of their relationship with women, but in simple lives, this issue is grand and well accounted for by Green's spare dialogue: “Can we enjoy the silence?”
As in Beckett's Waiting for Godot, where the characters are trying “to hold the terrible silence at bay,” nothing like God or illumination is arriving, just an old man (Lance LeGault) driving a truck with some moonshine and pithy life advice.
As the road lines and the drink proliferate, issues for the three men emerge having to do with their relationships with women. The ingenious part is to make what the truck driver says and does echo the very heart of the conflicts with the two line painters.
So Prince Avalanche (a title Green admits makes little sense but could reflect the absurdist atmosphere, wherein they are lords of chaos at best) is also about nothing because nothing is happening while life-defining relationships are lying underneath. As with Hemingway, the spare story asks you to consider if the bell is tolling for just these three loners, or is it tolling for you, too?
You don't need to be a Prince who causes Avalanches to see that the issues of love and women do amount to a hill of beans for each little male life. Simplicity trumps complexity once again.
John DeSando co-hosts WCBE 90.5’s It’s Movie Time and Cinema Classics, which can be heard streaming and on-demand at WCBE.org. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.rr.com