Posted under: EIFF
A teenager can be very misunderstood. Their lives are packed with stuff; education, puberty, love. They have a lot gooing on and even though adults have been through being a teenager, they're always too harsh and just don't understand what's happening in their minds, in their life.
But Gia Coppola's Palo Alto gives an insight into a teen's life and shows just how strenuous it can be, sort of.
The film is based on a 2010 book, of the same title, written by actor and writer James Franco (he also stars in the film). His novel is split into different short stories about teenagers and their experiments with vices and their struggles with family and love.
These stories are inspired by Franco's own teenage memories and stories submitted by students at Palo Alto High School, in Franco's home town of, well, Palo Alto and see life in the town experienced by a group of mishap, troubled teenagers.
The film opens to Nat Wolff's Fred and Jusin Kilmer's Teddy both drunk, in a car in a parking lot having some friendly banter before ramming the car into a wall, screaming with joy. It's a weird but joyous scene and shows that Coppola is a natural director. The whole scene is mesmerising, almost, like the camera happened to be in the right place at the right time.
Emma Roberts' April, Zoe Levin's Emily, Wolff's Fred and Kilmer's Teddy take front and center in this film.
April juggles her affection and love, for Mr. B (James Franco) and Teddy, whilst also dealing with school and soccer.
Emily offers sexual favours to every boy in her class but, deep down, is a sweet, sensitive little girl.
Fred is a reckless drunk that is spiralling out of control and is also bringing Teddy, the misjudged art lover, down with him.
On the surface, it can seem like a film revolving around young love and whilst it is dealt with, it's atypical from most young romances; it's no The Fault in Our Stars. Also, the love and feelings that flow in Palo Alto is also atypical and strange from most romances.
The film is constantly moving, always giving the viewer something to think about, and at times, the way the stories connect, can be rather emotional and moving; seeing these teens almost come together, only to screw up once again although, it can get a little weird at times and even with it's not to long runtime of 100 minutes, it can drag on a little too (like April's scenes at home, with her unusual mom).
It's a young movie, with a young cast, so the adults in this film are a massive weak point. From Franco's rather pedophilic Mr. B to Chris Messina as Fred's awkward bisexual, drug addict father, the older lot in this film just don't fit in with all the adolescence and it can make for some cringy viewing at certain points.
Performances from the cast, overall, are decent. They're half-hearted, and at times rather dull, but ok (on the whole).
Roberts is a great young actress but her performance as April isn't exactly the best. Yes, she tries but not too her full potential and there are times that her character doesn't as much sympathy and emotion from the audience as deserved. Franco is effective as Mr. B. He doesn't have a huge role in this but his performance is rather good and he sells the weird, student loving sports teacher off well... although some of his scenes with Emma were just cringy and embarrassing, especially when they kissed. Yuck.
Wolff is the stand-out though, as he excels in his role of Fred. He is perfect for the role and really makes his chaotic, crazy side believable and fun to watch.
In summary, Palo Alto is a powerful, unusual little piece of cinema that dwells on troubled teenagers, and their struggles in life. It will have you on edge and, by the end, will leave you intrigued and slighlty moved.
About the Author
Founder of Oasis Awais, and avid lover of life, Awais Irfan's love of writing and film is unequivocal. Ever since he was a little kid, he has loved the cinematic experience; so much so, he is studying Film Production in Glasgow and hopes to be the next "big thing" in directing.