Lance is free-lance in terms of girls, a freer spirit, and ignorant of the land. Lance is the junior member of the 2-man crew re-painting stripes down a god-forsaken Texas highway and pounding in posts and gluing on reflectors. It is 1988, a year after fires have devastated the landscape, so the two men are working among charred trees. Alvin shares the job with Lance because Lance's big sister, Madison, is Alvin's girlfriend. Alvin writes to her in these pre-e-mail days, expressing his frustration and disdain for Lance's work ethic.
Alvin tries to teach Lance the ways of the world. He sees himself as the father image Lance sorely needs, as the disciplinarian to Lance's wild child. Alvin sends Lance off for a weekend in town to sow his manseeds while he treasures his time alone in the woods. It is in these scene that the director David Gordon Green veers from the original film he's copying, an Icelandic feature called "Either Way," written and directed by Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurdsson.
Most of Green's film follows Sigurdsson's critically acclaimed film to a T, as Alvin would, but the re-make really sparkles when Green follows his inner Lance toward originality. Green gets comedy, but the humor of "Prince Avalanche" is at a remove from that of Green's "Pineapple Express." "Prince Avalanche" is more cerebral, even surreal. Who is that drunken trucker who kisses the baby doll on his dash? Is that woman digging through the ashes real? Are those blue words of love on the screen filling in the blue lines on the trees to be chopped down? Was the title pounded in like a sign post?
"Prince Avalanche" (and, no, the title makes no sense) is delightful if for no other reason than watching Emile Hirsch and Paul Rudd play off each other as comedians who don't know they're funny. Hirsch is Lance, looking like a young, muscular Jack Black; Rudd is Alvin -- buff, too, but reined in by rules.
They first appear, blued by night, camping in the light of a kerosene lamp. The outdoors scenes, including the licking flames and the gray smoke rising skyward, are beautifully shot by Tim Orr, on the Green team; and the music, by Explosions in the Sky with Dave Wingo, is terribly effective over the quiet scenes.
"Prince Avalanche" is an oddball essay writer comedy, demanding eyes and ears -- and a heart -- to appreciate.