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Empire’s Palo Alto Review
In Palo Alto, four teenagers — April (Emma Roberts), Teddy (Jack Kilmer), Fred (Nat Wolff) and Emily (Zoe Levin) — struggle to come of age. They face dangerous influences all around them; peer pressure, drugs, sex, booze, automobiles and inappropriately behaving adults.
Depending on which side of the Franco fence you sit, you might howl in pain at the thought of Palo Alto or embrace it wholeheartedly. Truth be told, the end result of Gia Coppola’s adaptation of James Franco’s semi-autobiographical 2010 short story collection evokes more of a middling “Meh”.
In the affluent Californian city of Palo Alto, bored, troubled teenagers float between school, endless parties, trouble and more trouble. Good girl April (Emma Roberts) is seduced by seedy soccer coach Mr B. (Franco), Teddy (Jack Kilmer, son of Val) is careening towards juvenile hall, charismatic A Grade arsehole Fred (Nat Wolff) is on a furious road to destruction and Emily (Zoe Levin) readily services boys on request.
Apart from the obvious — wanting acceptance and love, adolescent confusion — the film never really gets to the rotting root of their turmoil. Sure, teenhood is a mystery but it as a distancing effect, making it hard to empathise. Coppola (granddaughter of Francis Ford, niece to Sofia) doesn’t pass judgement on her protagonists readily. These are intelligent, messed up kids, trying not to care or caring too much.
The depiction of the suburbs is surprisingly low sheen but Coppola makes up for that with a moody, dreamy aesthetic and a hip soundtrack (the film is scored by Blood Orange, aka Devonté Hynes) that’s very Coppola: Second Gen. She acknowledges the influence of Aunt Sofia’s work — a poster of The Virgin Suicides cameos — but at least Aunty’s The Bling Ring, of which this film shares some DNA, was funny.
Still, the fact that Palo Alto’s subject matter is dark and overly familiar doesn’t detract from what is a strong, well crafted (if a little pretentious) debut from Coppola with robust performances from its young cast (the adult cast features an all too fleeting cameo from a campily eccentric Val Kilmer).
Moody, meandering and very familiar, this is wasted-youth Coppola style and an impressive debut with effective performances. It all seems very pointless, but perhaps that’s the point?
3 STARS Jim Mitchell
Portrait Every Year, Ellar Coltrane as Mason in Boyhood, by Matt Lankes
shes clearly smoking some stronger shit if her fucking dog is talking to her
What I tell myself everyday.