DRAMA, 1hr 40min
STARRING: Emma Roberts, James Franco, Jack Kilmer, Nat Wolff, Zoe Levin
Palo Alto is a city in California’s San Francisco Bay Area whose bourgeois suburbs are the bland backdrop of first-time film-maker (and Francis’s grandkid) Gia Coppola’s cruisey adolescent naval-gazer. Adapted from a short story by actor James Franco, who smoulders knowingly as high-school soccer coach Mr B, the screenplay zeroes in on teenagers April (Roberts), Emily (Levin), Teddy (Kilmer) and Fred (Wolff).
Virgin April is a thinking shrinking violet. Emily is a miscalculating wild child. Teddy and Fred are best friends, with Teddy the passive voice to Fred’s crazy ways. (April and Teddy could also be sweet on each other if she didn’t have this inappropriate Thing for smoking gun Mr B.)
Authenticity is the watchword all the way: barring the occasional, dramatic cracks, the droopily at-ease kids have sex, get wasted, mess up and pay the depressing price with zoned-out calm. It’s not what they do, kids everywhere being inclined to do pretty much the same limits-testing stuff, as the way they go about it. Keeping the mood ambiguous, Coppola nudges them along, not so much moving forward as round and round and round…