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30th October 2013

Cornerhouse Pick of the Week: Prince Avalanche

Shilpa isn’t sure if she’s bored or engaged by the Cornerhouse’s latest offering

Walking out of the cinema, my friend asks me the obligatory question – how did I find it? I honestly didn’t know what to say. Not because it was shockingly bad or breathtakingly amazing, but rather I had no strong reaction to it at all. But I would be lying if I said it was a waste of an hour and a half. David Gordon Green’s portrayal of the unlikely friendship of two road workers is strangely endearing. He manages to capture life after disaster perfectly, not dramatised to Hollywood standards, but just as it would in reality – simply continuing.

The film is set against the surreal backdrop of a Texan forest ravaged by fire. Homes have been destroyed, lives turned upside down and yet here we are watching Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch painting lines on a road. The tragicomedy quietly meditates on the lives affected by the disaster, and there, at the forefront, is Alvin and his simple assistant, Lance, making an honest living, miles away from their loved ones and all the things that make their life worth living. Their woes fade to insignificance, however, when they stumble upon a woman digging through the remains of her devastated home in desperate search for her beloved flying licence, embodying the entire theme of the film – hope where there is none left.  Although the trivialisation of the disaster helps create the quirky and comic tone of the film, I must admit that it also renders it somewhat insipid, as though the fire was no big deal, and that the real problem is what Lance is doing this weekend.

Paul Rudd is excellent as Alvin – the straightforward, everyday man, although admittedly, but I wasn’t completely able to shake his Pete from Knocked Up persona. He effortlessly develops from a simple and unfeeling road worker to Lance’s sensitive confidant and the friendship that forms holds the whole film together. Emile Hirsch plays the harmless idiot perfectly, and single handedly maintains the light hearted feel of the film. All the characters, although plagued by their own troubles, epitomize the simple American country folk stereotype, which partly allows viewers to be justified in grinning through the scenes of devastation.

But aside from the good acting and offbeat angle of the film, gripping is hardly the word I would use to describe Prince Avalanche. Pleasant maybe, mildly entertaining at best. The slow pace and lack of typical – beginning, climax and dramatic ending – structure means it might not be to everyone’s taste. As many independent films do, it certainly lacks a plot. The abrupt and unexpected conclusion didn’t leave me wanting more, or even satisfied, but I was happy it was over.  On second thoughts, maybe the word I’m looking for is boring.

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