David Gordon Green directs movie about two men who become unlikely friends painting road markers in rural Texas. Lance (Emile Hirsch) and Alvin (Paul Rudd) are highway workers during the Summer of 1988 in Texas. A widespread forest fire totaled the area and road workers are needed to restore the rural back roads. Lance and Alvin work quietly side-by-side during the day performing the routine task of painting yellow lane dividers, securing road signs, and affixing road reflectors. The monotony of the work grates on Lance, but Alvin enjoys the solitude. The two men squabble over the use of the boom box. Lance is annoyed by Alvin's German language tapes, and Alvin prefers a musical diversion, but since Alvin is the boss, Lance must comply with his Boss's wishes. Lance challenges Alvin's authority (and in a funny scene remarks that his tool belt is on backwards).
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When not working, the men camp in the woods. They have to bathe in the river, and they live a very secluded life. As Alvin says, there is not much to do. Alvin writers letters to his girlfriend Madison, who happens to be Lance's sister. Alvin continues to practice German, since he and Madison plan to visit Germany after his highway job is completed. Alvin and Lance share a tent, and Lance masturbates when he thinks Alvin is sleeping.
While working on the road, Lance and Alvin meet a drunk truck driver. He creates a diversion for the two men, sharing his cigars and alcohol. Later, at supper Lance inquires more about Alvin's relationship with his sister. Lance informs Alvin that his sister has had boyfriends in the past (which Alvin seems oblivious). Lance tells a story of hearing his sister and her then boyfriend Tristan having sex.
At the end of the work week, Alvin stays in the woods, while Lance decides to go into town. He promises Alvin he will mail a letter to Madison (with money in it). While Lance is gone for the weekend, Alvin enjoys the silence of solitude. He stumble upon a house that had been destroyed by the fire and meets a woman who apparently is the owner. Alvin walks through the destroyed home, pretending it is the home he and Madison share together. Later he fishes in the river to make his meal.
When Lance returns back to the camp after his weekend hiatus, he is outwardly dispirited. After work, they share a cigarette and Lance tells the story of his weekend. He was so exhausted when he got to his parent's house, he fell asleep standing up in the kitchen. He awakens the next morning when his parents come down to make breakfast. That night he goes dancing and he hopes to sleep with Peggy Johnson. She rebuffs him, but Kip, his best friend, has been sleeping with her, and he punches Lance in the face when he finds out he was trying to sleep with her. He then hopes to score with the "girl with the fat little legs," but he doesn't score with her either. But, he tells Alvin he is optimistic about getting laid next weekend when he plans to hook with one of the girls from the regional beauty pageant.
Lance is restless during the work week, and Alvin suggests he go fishing. Lance resists, but finally does it. He ends up enjoying it. Later the next day, Lance notices Alvin is not in the camp, so he surreptitiously reads the letters between Lance and Madison. He finds out that Madison broke up with him. The drunk truck driver returns and he and Lance share a beer. The same woman from the destroyed house get out of the drunk man's truck, but the drunk man does not notice her. Lance tells the drunk man that Alvin broke up with his girlfriend.
When Alvin comes back from town after having telephoned Madison about the breakup, he pretends nothing has transpired, but when Lance confronts him about the breakup, the two men get into a fight. Alvin throws a hammer in Lance's direction, but no one is hurt, but they do not talk to each other, and both go off and sulk. Alvin crushes Lance's watch (he had just purchased). When Alvin tries to get Lance to get back to work, Lance has locked himself in the truck. The two fight again, and Lance runs into the wood and applies war paint to his cheeks. Eventually, Alvin chases him into the woods, but he jumps from a medium height into a small creek below and hurts himself. Lance finds him and helps him out of the creek.
The two men reconcile back in the truck. Lance confides to Alvin that he got an older woman pregnant and he is not sure if he wants to have the baby or not. Alvin tells Lance that Madison left him for a "half-native American" named B.B. The two men get drunk on the moonshine the drunk truck driver left behind. This causes their road painting work to get a little crazy. There is a montage of scenes of Alvin and Lance drunk, and goofing off with road construction equipment (also, throwing safety cones into the river).
After the two sober up, Alvin continues his German lessons in the truck. At night in the tent, Lance asks Alvin if he should have the baby or not. Alvin encourage Lance to keep it.
Lance had forgotten to mail the letter to Madison. The letter contained money, but Alvin tells Lance to replace his watch (but Lance had already bought a replacement). The two friends decide to go into town to have fun. On the way to town, they see the mysterious woman, but she doesn't seem to hear them calling after her. She gets into the drunk man's truck, but he does not seem to notice. Alvin calls out to the drunk man that if there were a woman in his truck, would he take care of her, and the drunk man says he will and he drives off.
The movie ends with a scene of highway construction workers cutting timber into logs intercut with Alvin and Lance driving off, and series of shots of children playing in a burnt out lot with chickens and junk.
Best part of story, including ending:
I liked the unexpected friendship between Lance and Alvin. Aside from the plot, I thought the movie's cinematography was beautifully done. There are several scenes both depicting the beauty of nature, but also the effects of Alvin and Lance's work and how it pollutes the woods.
Best scene in story:
I liked the monologue Lance gives about his weekend off from work. On a superficial level, Lance is just a horny twenty-something who wishes he got laid, but the way Emile Hirsch plays the character, there are moments of emotion and authenticity that were pitch perfect. I liked how this scene is the beginning of the two men sharing stories about their respective girlfriends.
Opinion about the main character:
I didn't like how the subplot of the drunk truck driver and the mysterious woman played into the lives of Alvin and Lance. I thought it was a little bit contrived, but I liked the idea of Alvin identifying with the mysterious woman, and I liked how we get to see that he really wants to love another human being, and we can tell how disappointed he is that his relationship with Madison has not worked out.