An unflinching portrait of adolescent lust, boredom, and self-destruction, PALO ALTO is a teen movie for the ages — an astonishing debut feature from writer-director Gia Coppola, based on the book “Palo Alto: Stories” by James Franco.
Based on a series of short stories by James Franco, ‘Palo Alto‘ is the directorial debut of Gia Coppola (of that family), and it’s an interesting meditation on youth and teenage life. It follows 3 teenagers, with separate stories that interlink throughout, and the transient nature of the storylines leads to a meandering pace throughout. I expect some of the criticism of the film will be along the lines that not much happens, but the strong performances, underlying themes and interesting direction from Coppola ensure this is always watchable. Coppola has clearly learnt well from family member’s Francis and Sofia (in particular), with an interesting approach to staging shots, with swift cuts and edits throughout that emphasise her background in studying photography.
Of the main cast, Emma Roberts ‘April’ is perhaps the most prominent, as a teenager struggling between her lust for her football coach, Mr. B (James Franco, in an interesting role given some of the recent allegations against him), who she babysits for occasionally, and a potential budding relationship with Teddy (Jack Kilmer, son of Val, who also has a small part). Teddy is friends with Fred (Nat Wolff, in one of the film’s strongest performance, once you get past the fact he looks like a teenage Ed Miliband!). Overall, this is a naturally realistic portrayal of teenage life, and it marks Gia Coppola out as a talented director to look out for in the future.
Directed By: Gia Coppola
Starring: Emma Roberts, Nat Wolff, Jack Kilmer, James Franco, Zoe Levin, Chris Messina, Keegan Allen, Margaret Qualley and Val Kilmer