rating: 4Any discussion about David Gordon Green eventually boils down to the same question: which director is he, really? The one who made sleepy indies like George Washington and All the Real Girls? Or the guy who made crass comedies like Pineapple Express, Your Highness, and the critically savaged The Sitter? Prince Avalanche, his latest film, shows us that maybe he can be both at the same time. Set on a patch of backwoods Texas roads recently destroyed by a forest fire, Prince Avalanche follows Alvin (Paul Rudd) and Lance (Emile Hirsch), two road workers tasked with painting those yellow lines back on the road for the summer. Lance is the younger son on Alvins current girlfriend, and while Alvin enjoys the solitude and meditative space allowed by nature, Lance in an animal in a cage, longing to get back to the city where he can indulge in the rampant womanizing he spends most of the movie bragging about. In a funny sort of way, these two characters seem to take on each side of Greens career. Alvin is thoughtful, ponderous, and at home in his solitude; Lance is crass, dirty, and always looking for laughs. Initially theyre opposite natures pit them against one another, but eventually, as expected, the two of them slowly start to mesh and the movie turns into the best kind of buddy film: one with plenty of space for its characters to just riff off of one another without the pressures of a constrictive plot. The conversations between Hirsch and Rudd feel natural in an improvised sort of way, and the humor that they generate never feels scripted or forced. Its the kind of humor that comes by creating two real characters with opposite traits, then sticking them in the woods together to see what happens. Rudd is perfectly subdued as the almost-straight man in the duo, Hirsch wonderfully unhinged as an ironic opposite to his earthy role in Into the Wild. But the film isnt all comedy. There are some moments of real meditation, with stunning cinematography to paint the woods around them as a towering, mind-opening space. There are moments of real reflection on life and the relationships that make it matter, one of which comes out of nowhere and nearly floors us with its power. Though it sags a bit in its final act before picking up again for its finale, Prince Avalanche is mostly a delight. It isnt a film to stand up and clap about, but its greatness (and most of it really is great) comes in a soft, quiet sort of way. Perhaps its time that we all stopped wondering what kind of director David Gordon Green really is and just let him do his thing. Hes certainly talented enough to have earned that right.