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About the Movie
Shy, sensitive April (Emma Roberts) is the class virgin, torn between an illicit flirtation with her soccer coach Mr. B (James Franco) and an unrequited crush on sweet stoner Teddy (Jack Kilmer). Emily (Zoe Levin), meanwhile, offers sexual favors to every boy to cross her path — including both Teddy and his best friend Fred (Nat Wolff), a live wire without filters or boundaries. As one high school party bleeds into the next — and April and Teddy struggle to admit their mutual affection — Fred's escalating recklessness starts to spiral into chaos. An unflinching portrait of adolescent lust, boredom, and self-destruction, Palo Alto is a teen movie for the ages — an astonishing debut feature from writer-director Gia Coppola, based on the book “Palo Alto: Stories” by James Franco and featuring new music from Devonté Hynes (Blood Orange).
Rotten Tomatoes Movie Reviews
- Reviews Counted: 118
- Fresh: 84
- Rotten: 34
- Average Rating: 6.3/10
Top Critics' Reviews
Rotten: "Palo Alto" feels earnest and promising, but half-formed.
Fresh: That Coppola finds occasional grace and spirit here shows understanding and compassion. Her next assignment? Make a movie that's not about the troubles of the privileged and bored.
Fresh: It's accurate to say that "Palo Alto" is another movie by another Coppola about the lives of the rich, bored and disaffected, but that description sells the movie short.
Fresh: These slippery slices of life feel like the most honest, relevant film portrait of adolescence in ages.
I Wish My Youth Looked This Cool
There are plenty of high school movies, which I adored growing up and they mostly all took place in Anytown, CA. Palo Alto is no different except that it hits much closer to the raw and hopeless emotions I think I had of not knowing what the hell was going to happen to any of us and where we’d all be in just a few years.
Despite its plot and the characters’ ages, it’s not a raunchy teenage high school film - the look, the music, everything in it has the making of a film I’ll recommend 10 years from now and will continue to stay with you. But it still manages to throw in a great nod to the most viewed scene from Fast Times at Ridgemont High.
A realistic, smart, strong, subtle drama.
I am now convinced that the Coppolas' talents are genetic. I have the most appreciation for films that find the odd beauty in sad and/or ordinary things, and like Sofia, Gia Coppola proves that she can do that super well. This movie is engaging the entire time thanks to how realistic it is, and the performances are great from everyone. I've always liked Emma Roberts but she definitely proves her own talent here, and everyone else - specifically Nat Wolff and Jack Kilmer - is solid as well. My favorite thing about this is probably its realism, which is so well executed. The kids are perfectly nuanced and their experiences and daily lives are so well realized, and that's where the direction comes into discussion. This seems super influenced by Harmony Korine's downbeat tone, specifically the film Kids, which he wrote. The structure is a lot like Kids and it works super well, and the style seems to be like Harmony Korine crossed with Sofia Coppola. Either way, the tone and feel of the movie is terrific and suits the material and performances perfectly. The characters are surprisingly well defined in their subtly, and combined with the acting, even the most despicable characters are given a range of sympathetic depth. The film is shot well and the music is good, but it feels like all of this falls under the direction. Gia Coppola is definitely one to watch out for, and it seems that she'll have a great career. 9/10, terrific, two thumbs up, far above average, etc.
Realistic drama that truly resonates
Having been a long time fan of Coppola films, I was very excited to see Gia Coppola’s debut film. I watched a ton of behind-the-scenes videos before and after watching this movie and they made me appreciate the film so much more. I learned that Gia went to school for photography and it can be seen throughout the film. The soft colors and lighting, the camera angles and movement compliment the tone of each scene. I’ve heard people criticize the pace of the film but I think that this is what makes it great, the accuracy. I tried to compare this film to The Perks of Being a Wallflower but, although I liked Perks, I realized that they’re not about the same thing. This film shows average teenagers, unaware of their self-destructive behavior, unsure of where their lives are headed. The slow pace makes you feel like you’re stuck in this awkward age with them. There are scenes where someone is just sitting in their room, bored, and you empathize with them. The movie doesn’t jump from a school dance to halloween to christmas to graduation, because that’s only a small fraction of high school life. This movie shows what the rest of high school consists of (besides learning), how we have all of this time to think about our futures and all of that time doesn’t help much. We end up looking for ways to occupy that time and it occasionally sends us down the wrong path. I agree that this film is a bit one-sided since it only shows a small group of teenagers who happen to drink, smoke, and have sex, but that doesn’t change how strongly it resonates.