Sunday, July 03, 2022

Palo Alto (2013 film)


Based on a collection of short stories by James Franco, Palo Alto is a film consisting of three different stories set in Palo Alto, California as it relates to teenagers dealing with boredom, lust, and self-destructive behavior. Written for the screen and directed by Gia Coppola, the film is an exploration of teenage life in a small Californian town as it revolves around a group of high schoolers dealing with their own surroundings and the world around them. Starring Emma Roberts, Jack Kilmer, Nat Wolff, Zoe Levin, Chris Messina, Keegan Allen, Margaret Qualley, Val Kilmer, and James Franco. Palo Alto is an evocative and compelling film from Gia Coppola.

The film revolves around a group of teenagers living in Palo Alto, California as they all deal with growing pains, lust, boredom, and other issues as they all embark on some journey that play to their growth. It’s a film that follow four different teens as they all share a narrative of sorts where Gia Coppola creates as it play into these teens who are just lost in the world around them as April (Emma Roberts) is a high school student that is also part of the school’s soccer team as she has a crush on their coach Mr. B. (James Franco) whom she also babysits her son. April has feelings for one of her classmates in the aspiring artist/stoner Teddy (Jack Kilmer) who often hangs out with the more destructive stoner Fred (Nat Wolff) as they get into some trouble with Teddy being forced to serve community service after crashing into another car in order to avoid juvenile detention. Fred meanwhile goes after a teammate of April in Emily (Zoe Levin) whom he would have sex with yet has also things that he would want to do as he would also cause trouble. Though Coppola’s script is loose in its narrative and can be messy at times, she is able to find ways to play into the evolution of these characters as they deal with their growing pains.

Coppola’s direction is definitely stylish in terms of its presentation while utilizing real locations in and around Southern California including the town of Palo Alto as it is a character in the film. Coppola would use wide shots for some of the locations including scenes where the characters are in a location to play into their own sense of isolation and boredom while she also uses medium shots for some of the party scenes in the film. There are also intimate moments in Coppola’s direction in some of the medium shots as well as close-ups as it add to the drama. Notably as it play into April’s own interaction with Mr. B. whom she would have an affair with despite the fact that he’s an adult and she’s a high school student.

There are also moments that do play into the many fallacies of Teddy and Fred’s friendship as the latter tends to be involved in destructive manners as well as voiceover in what he would to Emily with other boys. Coppola also play into Emily’s own search for love but also her own sexual exploration although her character isn’t as developed as she has no idea about what she’s doing other than become a prop for Fred. The climax does play into a party but also characters growing up over some of the things they encounter as well as thinking about the next stage in their lives. Yet, it also forces a few to ponder if there is even a future for them as it all play into the ideas of growing up. Overall, Coppola crafts a dreamy yet haunting film about teenagers dealing with growing pains in Palo Alto, California.

Cinematographer Autumn Cheyenne Durald does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography with its usage of low-key and natural lighting for many of the daytime exteriors as well as the usage of lighting to low-level lighting for many of the interior/exterior scenes at night. Editor Leo Scott does excellent work with the editing as it has style in its usage of jump-cuts and dissolves to play into some of the dizzying adventures the characters go through but also some straightforward cuts for the drama. Production designer Sara Beckum Jamieson, with set decorator Natalie Ziering and art director Dori Hana Scherer, does fantastic work with the look of the homes of where Fred and Emily lived while the rooms of Teddy and April are actual locations. Costume designer Courtney Hoffman does nice work with the costumes from the stylish look of Emily to the stoner clothing that Fred and Teddy wear.

Hair/makeup artist Molly Paddon does terrific work with some of the makeup April and Emily would wear along with their friends. Visual effects supervisor Viktor Muller does fine work with some of the film’s minimal visual effects as it relates to some of the car crashes in the film. Sound designer Richard Beggs does incredible work with the sound in the way music sounds at a party as well as some of the sparse sounds in natural locations. The film’s music by Devonte Hynes and Robert Schwartzman is wonderful for its mixture of indie, pop, hip-hop, and other kinds of music that include contributions from Jason Schwartzman’s side project Coconut Records, Mac DeMarco, Jack Kilmer, Nat & Alex Wolff, Blood Orange, Francesco Pennino, William Storkson, and Tonstartssbandht.

The casting by Laray Mayfield is superb as it feature some notable small roles and appearances from Talia Shire as April’s guidance counselor, Janet Jones Gretzky as Teddy’s mother, Emma Gretzky as Teddy’s sister, Colleen Camp as a woman who was part of a car accident Teddy got involved in, Francis Ford Coppola as the voice of a judge, Ana Thea Bogdanovich as a friend of the woman whom Teddy crashed into, Brennan and Atlanta de Cadenet Taylor as a couple of kids at a party, Andrew Lutheran as a boy April makes out with at a party, Jacqueline De La Fontaine as April’s mother, Don Novello as an art teacher, Sandra Seacat as an elderly woman who takes a liking towards Teddy’s art work during his community service, Margaret Qualley as a teammate of April in Raquel whom April notices Mr. B. puts his attention towards to, Chris Messina as Fred’s father who is a stoner and tries to flirt with Teddy, Keegan Allen as a weed dealer who insults Fred, and Val Kilmer as April’s stepfather Stewart who likes to smoke weed but also help her out with her term paper. Olivia Crocicchia and Claudia Levy are terrific in their respective roles as April’s classmates Chrissy and Shauna who often host parties while also making rumors about everyone.

Zoe Levin is pretty good in her role as Emily despite the fact that she’s underwritten in terms of the fact that there’s not a lot of development to her other than that she gives Teddy a blow-job early in the film and is the object of lust for other guys. James Franco is fantastic as April’s soccer coach Mr. B. whom April has a crush on while he is also creepy for the fact that he also likes April as well. Nat Wolff is amazing as Fred as this unlikeable and destructive teen who likes to smoke weed but also engage in vandalism and other destructive elements to the point that he gets Teddy in trouble as well as use Emily for sexual reasons. Jack Kilmer is excellent as Teddy as a stoner who has a gift for art as he deals with the drawbacks of his friendship with Fred but also his own issues as he also has a crush towards April. Finally, there’s Emma Roberts in a brilliant performance as April as a teenage girl dealing with uncertainty with her life as she longs for her soccer coach as well as coping with growing pains as it is one of Roberts’ finest performances.

Palo Alto is a marvelous film from Gia Coppola that features great performances from Emma Roberts, Nat Wolff, and Jack Kilmer in his film debut. Along with its supporting cast, rapturous visuals, hypnotic music soundtrack, and its exploration of teenage life in a small town in Southern California. It is a film that is a mesmerizing coming-of-age film that doesn’t just explore teen angst and uncertainty but also people just trying to find themselves in a small town. In the end, Palo Alto is a remarkable film from Gia Coppola.


© thevoid99 2022


Ruth said...

I actually went to a Summer camp in Palo Alto, California when I was 16 after my late mother passed away. I'm intrigued by this one. Wow the Coppola family sure have film talents aren't they?

Is Jack Kilmer the son of Val Kilmer? I thought I saw him in the doc about Val earlier this year.

thevoid99 said...

@Ruth-Yes, Jack is Val's son. There's a lot of second/third generation people in that film as the woman who play Emma Roberts' mom is actually Gia's mom. Her aunt Talia is in the film.

I have Gia's second film in my DVR as I hope to watch it this week or next week depending on how much time I have.