With: Emma Roberts, Jack Kilmer, Nat Wolff, James Franco, Zoe Levin
I haven't heard of Gia Coppola before but since she's part of the Coppola film dynasty, it's safe to assume that she's got some skills from his grandfather, aunt, uncle, you name it. Filmmaking is basically in their blood. After watching Palo Alto, the film itself affirmed where her last name came from. Gia Coppola's first feature film adds to the roster of stylistic films of the Coppolas. It depicts an honest portrait of adolescence, exploring the insecurities and faults of modern teenagers.
The three main characters are -- April played by Emma Roberts, a young student who shows interest in her football coach played by James Franco, Teddy played by Jack Kilmer, a shy artist, and his buddy Fred played by Nat Wolff, who's probably the resident douchebag of their batch. These characters are tangled into a series of chaotic encounters with their fellow students and themselves, while April gets tied up in a secret affair with her football coach. It's bonkers.
Coppola knows how to put her audience in the shoes of these characters that you can't help but get affected by their continuous wrongdoings and confused emotions. It's also matched with the bleak cinematography of Autumn Durald that gives an eerie atmosphere to the surroundings of the cast. Plus, the gloomy slash indie inspired musical score of Devonté Hynes and Robert Schwartzman adds to the youthful and stylish texture of the film, that I can't help but associate Gia Coppola's choices of songs to her aunt's keenness in music.
It's also a film very reminiscent of Harmony Korine's Gummo and to an extent Spring Breakers, wherein both are dark and astonishing. It doesn't hurt that this film also stars James Franco whom despite being normal and looking sane, his portrayal of April's football coach is nothing short of creepy. I'm having flashbacks of Franco's Alien in his character here, not because they're similar. In fact, they're very different but there's something about Franco these days that's alarmingly weird and it shows a lot in Palo Alto. The three young leads, Roberts, Kilmer and Wolff each provided a semblance of distinctiveness depicting different attitudes of teenagers nowadays. Nat Wolff is a standout for how annoyed I was with his character. It's crazy how he turned from being funny and likable in The Fault in Our Stars to being extremely aggravating in Palo Alto. Talk about effective acting. He's giving Ezra Miller's Kevin a run for his money.
For its darkness, I think it affected my opinion on the film. The three main characters never gave the audience reasons to like them which is understandable. The theme boasts of relevance, the visuals and sounds are brilliant. As for the plot and the main characters, they are well written, but I'm afraid it didn't leave any space for the audience to care about any of them. Thus, it ended up having so much promise but also sort of unfavorable.