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Based on James Franco’s first book of short stories, Gia Coppola’s auspicious directorial debut features a knock-out cast (including Franco, Emma Roberts, and Zoe Levin) and immerses us in the tangled lives of teenagers living in the eponymous Californian city.
Based on prolific actor and all-round
polymath James Franco's first book of
short stories, Palo Alto immerses us in the
lives of a number of teenagers living in the
eponymous Californian city. The narratives
that entwine through this observant
and occasionally alarming film reflect
events from Franco's own adolescence,
yet they speak to any generation, with kids
drawn toward vice for its own sake, seeking
some combination of cheap thrills and
meaningful connection. The film starts
with Fred (Nat Wolff ) driving a car into a
wall — on purpose. That's not the craziest
thing Fred will do.
Among Palo Alto's complicated characters
is Teddy (Jack Kilmer, whose father
Val makes a highly memorable cameo
appearance). We see Teddy drive drunk
and become moronically obnoxious with
a police officer; later, when he's logging
community-service hours at a local library,
he is tender and curious. Palo Alto's most
sympathetic character is April (Emma
Roberts), a babysitter who has an affair
with her employer, Mr. B. (Franco), also
the school football coach. April clearly
has good sense, but how can a teenager be
expected not to fall in love when an older,
charming man showers her with affection?
Managing Palo Alto's tangle of stories
and themes would challenge a seasoned
veteran. That the film feels so unified,
fluid, and mature, so stylish yet unfussy,
says something about the innate skills and
wisdom of its first-time director. The latest
member of the world's most revered
filmmaking dynasty to enter the family
business, Gia Coppola proves herself as
deft and distinctive as her grandfather,
aunt, and uncle.
- Gia Coppola
- Gia Coppola was born in Los Angeles.
She has directed fashion videos for
Elle China and Vogue Japan, and has
directed the short film Writer's Block
(12). Palo Alto (13) is her feature debut.