Film Review: Prince Avalanche

by Sam Robinson

Rated M. Starring Paul Rudd, Emile Hirsch. Directed by David Gordon Green.

I’m massive fan of Seinfeld. It was such a great show – cleverly written, hilariously acted, and it was just a great commentary on life – despite being ‘a show about nothing’. There’s a bunch of episodes that I love returning to but my absolute favourite is The Pothole.

In it, Kramer takes it upon himself to sign up for a programme to adopt a one-mile stretch of a highway. If you know the character of Kramer, you’d find it no surprise that he takes this responsibility a little too seriously, re-painting four lanes into two. Traffic chaos ensues.

Since seeing that episode for the first time, it’s changed the way I think of highways and freeways. There’s a lot of lines to be painted, and plastic bumps to stick down.

So when I saw a film was released last year starring Paul Rudd as a guy who does this very job, I rented it straight away.

Prince Avalanche is set in 1988 and tells the story of Alvin (Rudd) and his girlfriend’s brother Lance (Hirsch). They work together (legally) painting lines on a highway in the middle of a burnt-out forest in Texas. The forest was ravaged by a horrific wildfire the year prior and the landscape is still regenerating. The job calls for them to camp out as they work during the week. For the most part, the film documents interactions between the pair, as they chat, fight, chase each other, and open up to each other.

I understand this film won’t be for everyone. It purposely moves at an extremely slow pace, and there’s very little action. Prince Avalanche had a very slim budget (less than $1 million, which is rare for any film these days) but because of the emphasis on dialogue and the writing, it isn’t noticeable. The screenplay could very much be adapted into a stage play without too much alteration – although the pair are in a forest, the setting soon fades away as you are captured by Alvin and Lance’s interactions.

As their relationship grows, it’s proven that both Alvin and Lance are both extremely selfish. Alvin desires solitude – through fishing, cooking or whatever way he can get it. He loves the job of line painting because it provides a reason to escape everything in civilisation. Lance is different – he lives for girls and the party life. It occupies his thoughts, desires, and conversation.

Alvin and Lance are caught up in their own worlds but don’t realise how much they need each other. Their relationship becomes strained, and they struggle as individuals, because they are too self-centred and wound up.

This got me thinking about the importance of relationships. Those who are followers of Jesus are called to be in relationship with each other in Christian community. Why? Because that’s how God made us to be. That’s what church is – it’s not the building, nor is it restricted to Sundays only. Church happens when Christians gather together around his word, sharing lives with each other.

Paul writes this to the Christian community at Thessalonica in 1 Thessalonians 2:8:

We cared so much for you that we were pleased to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us.

Paul demonstrates a love for others that all Christians should ooze. I realise that Alvin and Lance aren’t Christian, but they still struggle because they aren’t willing to share their lives with each other – their joys, their struggles, their frustrations.

Maybe this could be a challenge for us to consider how we’re going at our relationships. Are we sharing our lives with others? Are we sharing the gospel with those who don’t know Jesus? Are we working at restoring and building relationships with others?

Prince Avalanche is a refreshing, back-to-basics film and I’m giving it three-and-a-half out of five stars.

Prince Avalanche is available now on home media.

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