Lots to get through this week, including the Robert De Niro/Zac Efron comedy Dirty Grandpa, Oscar-nominated financial comedy The Big Short, Sandra Bullock and Billy Bob Thornton in Our Brand Is Crisis, Feng Xiaogang in mainland gangster drama Mr. Six and Japanese musical shenanigans in La La La At Rock Bottom.
After a troubling daliance in stoner comedy, David Gordon Green returns to the more independent, thoughtful material on which he made his name. Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch play maintenance workers in the burnt-out woodlands of Texas. Based on the Icelandic film, Either Way, this comedic drama employs plenty of improvisation from its two leads and was shot on location following a real forest fire that wiped out many homes and communities in addition to hundreds of acres of woodland.
The thin, whimsical plot focuses on the strained relationship between Lance (Hirsch) and his boss, Alvin (Rudd), who is also dating Alvin’s sister. Assigned with the monotonous task of repainting the roadways through the forest, the pair are forced to camp together for days, seeing very few other people, and steadily get on each other’s nerves due to their wildly different personalities.
For a stripped down no-frills slice of indie filmmaking, Prince Avalanche is perfectly fine, and a refreshing change from the studio over-indulgences of Green’s previous film, Your Highness. However, despite the strong performances and wonderful use of location, there is little of genuine substance here and too often the film seems to coast along on its good intentions rather than genuine qualities.