Film Review: PALO ALTO

Palo Alto
Directed by Gia Coppola
Written by Gia Coppola, based on the short stories by James Franco
Starring: Emma Roberts, Jack Kilmer, Nat Wolff, Zoe Levin, James Franco, Val Kilmer

Based on Franco’s short stories of the same title, this film often feels like a series of vignettes. But somehow, it works. Perhaps it’s the talented direction of Coppola, perhaps it’s the seriousness with which it treats its disaffected teens, or maybe it’s the lovely cinematography.

It starts badly with a scene we have been witness to so many times. The teen party: drugs, drinking, sex, bullying, bragging, all the usual stuff. We have been there both in life and in front of a screen, and nothing new is present here. But once we move beyond that to the troubles of the four main characters (Roberts, Kilmer, Levin and Wolff) it feels fresh, poignant. Wolff playing Fred is especially convincing as the boy least likely to survive, but all four young actors bring vigor to the film. Franco plays the seedy seducer with just the right combination of charm and sleaziness.

This is not as good a film as last year’s THE SPECTACULAR NOW but it’s a more adult look at teens than most movies provide. Recommended.

Patti Abbott