Friday, August 9, 2013

<i>We're the Millers</i> and the Many Faces of Jason Sudeikis

Posted By on Fri, Aug 9, 2013 at 2:25 PM

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Prince Avalanche David Gordon Green Emile Hirsch Paul Rudd
Prince Avalanche: David Gordon Green returns to the forest in Prince Avalanche, his first indie after a loose trilogy of major-studio drug comedies. I saw plenty of Green's personality in Your Highness and The Sitter, but Prince Avalanche brings back the sun-dappled post-industrial semi-natural landscapes of Undertow and George Washington (and briefly glimpsed in Pineapple Express), fusing it with his buddy-comedy acumen. The buddies are Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch as not-quite-in-laws: Alvin (Rudd) has hired Lance (Hirsch), his girlfriend's brother, to work with him on a remote stretch of Texas road, painting divider lines and hammering in posts in the aftermath of major forest fires (the movie is set in 1988). Their isolation in this half-beautiful, half-charred landscape feels otherworldly; at times, with their little camp and endless menial work, either one of them could turn into Sam Rockwell in Moon.

Early on, the movie establishes the odd-couple relationship that staves off stir-craziness: Lance stops Alvin's German language tapes and swaps them out for some rock n' roll; Alvin maintains that educational materials are not covered in the previously forged "boombox agreement." After bickering, they agree, with irritation, to "enjoy the silence"—a phrase that pops up again later in the movie, because the two men make subtle echoes of other's language after a few days together. Alvin maintains a pompous interest in self-improvement, while Lance has less patience, wants to get laid, etc. With virtually no one else to play off, both actors are terrific. By now, I expect this kind of deceptive versatility from Rudd, but Hirsch, puffier and less outwardly charismatic than usual, is something of a revelation, particularly in a monologue chronicling his disappointing off-site weekend.

This moment, and so much of the movie, could be theatrical: it's a dialogue heavy two-hander, after all, with essentially one location. Thankfully, Green never lets it feel un-cinematic. The camera doesn't follow Lance on his weekend adventure, but it does find the intersection of nature and civilization: Alvin meets an older woman sifting through the ruins of her destroyed house; Green repeatedly cuts to shots of the asphalt running and running; yellow paint leaks into clear forest brooks. Maybe due to Green's and cinematographer Tim Orr's actual compositions, the offhandedness of Prince Avalanche feels more successful and less self-conscious than the much-lauded Beasts of the Southern Wild, which appropriated Green much the way Green nods to Terence Malick, but with a handheld faux-documentary veneer. If any self-consciousness makes its way into Prince Avalanche, it's in the movie's ample, mostly generous, occasionally mannered sense of humor; sometimes the odd phrasings Green gives to his actors feel a little mannered (though more often they're funny and distinct). The film staves off condescension, though, with its intimacy. It's stuck with me since it played Tribeca in April; months later it still looks like one of the best little movies of the year.

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