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Palo Alto

Based on James Franco's autobiographical short story collection of the same name, PALO ALTO is a moody meandering through the lives of affluent high school students in Northern California. First-time director Gia Coppola, granddaughter of Francis, ...

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Based on James Franco's autobiographical short story collection of the same name, PALO ALTO is a moody meandering through the lives of affluent high school students in Northern California. First-time director Gia Coppola, granddaughter of Francis, creates an adolescent apocalypse for the here and now, following a trio of friends through their suburban ennui.

The film opens with best friends Fred and Teddy sitting inside a parked car in an empty parking lot. Drinking and smoking pot, they talk not about their futures but about imagined past identities. If they lived in “olden times,” who would be peasant and who would be king? Fred declares himself king and slams on the gas pedal, crashing the car into a wall a few inches away. This prologue to the opening title hints at many more collisions to come, both emotional and sexual. Emma Roberts plays April, a studious athlete who has a crush on Teddy but must also navigate the creepy advances of her soccer coach, played by James Franco. Jack Kilmer plays Teddy, an artist also talented at getting into drunk driving accidents. Nat Wolff plays Fred, a troubled instigator who enjoys pushing people’s buttons, including taunting the local drug dealer.

Through her striking compositions and ability to elicit strong performances, Coppola’s Hollywood pedigree is clearly visible. Stylistically, the film’s dreamy tone shares its DNA with her Aunt Sofia’s THE VIRGIN SUICIDES. Shades of other teen classics, including REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE, demonstrate the director’s engagement with the genre.

For those expecting complex plot and characters, PALO ALTO offers neither. Instead, Coppola’s adaptation stays true to the spirit of aimless youth, capturing perfectly the surfaces of disaffection. Drifting, we move with the kids into expected cinematic spaces: empty parking lots, a graveyard where the trio discusses the suicide of a classmate, and parties with missing parents who for all practical purposes, are missing anyway. Also absent in the film is any reference to Palo Alto’s famed institutions of power and privilege, from Stanford University to its many Silicon Valley companies. Instead, the film explores the bubble’s domestic fallout in a lush, impressionistic rendering of childhood’s twilight.

Dolissa Medina

Credits

USA 2013, 100 min
Genre: Drama, Youth Film
Director: Gia Coppola
Author: Gia Coppola, James Franco
DOP: Autumn Durald
Montage: Leo Scott
Distributor: Capelight
Cast: Emma Roberts, James Franco, Jack Kilmer, Nat Wolff, Val Kilmer
FSK: 16
Release: 18.06.2015

Website

Screenings

Screenings

  • OV Original version
  • OmU Original with German subtitles
  • OmeU Original with English subtitles
English/with English subtitles
All languages

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