Gia Coppola’s “Palo Alto” – Review and Trailer

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five-stars“Palo Alto” is a compassionate, non-judgemental glimpse into the often dark world of teenagers, based on the short stories by James Franco. It’s a very new glance into their discovery of sex, the escapist use of drugs and partying, and how overall lost people are at this age.

I say “new” knowing full well that this is a topic covered countless times in the past.  What makes the approach taken here so novel is that much of what could be focused on (and often is in films of the topic) is not. The stereotypical elements of this age are incorporated, but diluted – in other words, the truth which is contained within these stereotypical groupings so often exploited by filmmakers is extracted and thereby retracted from them. The way teenagers behave is shown with sympathetic eyes; there are no apparent explanations, but the irrational and erratic ways in which the young trying to come to a sense of self in the world act is shown.

The three main characters could easily be said to be Fred, Teddy (Val Kilmer‘s son Jack Kilmer; Val plays a stoner pseudo-intellectual step father as well), and April (Emma Roberts). Each of them is lost in the way that one on the verge of adulthood with no aim or idea of what the future could possibly contain. They are all quite different, but with the same issues, except for Fred, who is perhaps the most erratic (an impressive, disconcerting role by Nat Wolff) and borderline psychotic. I found the character of Emily (played by Zoe Levin) to be particularly heartbreaking, as the promiscuous young girl so desperate for love, acceptance, and human interaction and who can only see her body as the way to get it.

It’s an impressive, well written, understated, mature debut film by Gia Coppola, and I look forward to seeing what she makes in the future.

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