Movie Review – Palo Alto (2013)

Director: Gia Coppola

Stars: Emma Robert, James Franco, Jack Kilmer, Nat Wolff, Zoe Levin

Based on a book of short stories by James Franco, Palo Alto depicts wandering teens trying to find their way through a world of angst and uncertainty.

I haven’t read the book. In fact I wasn’t aware of it until I watched the film. The focus is on April (Roberts) who is torn between an illicit affair with her soccer coach (Franco) and crush on Teddy (Kilmer). But there are a few other stories going on. The film doesn’t follow a typical structure as there’s no rising action to a climax, and this may turn some people off. The ending does feel flat and that did affect my opinion of the film, but it’s one of those that just offers a window into a few characters’ lives. But the lack of any resolution to the arcs presented, while realistic and reflective of life, doesn’t make for a fulfilling ending.

It’s rather meandering and it could be said that not much happens in the film. I did like it though, and it does touch on the loneliness and isolation that comes with being a teenager. However, it does play into the stereotype that every teenager is like that.

It’s a lot more sombre than most teen movies so don’t go into this expecting a typical romp. There are some nice touches as well, like a scene that shows the next generation of teens that are going to go through the same problems. But while the issues of the characters were touched on I don’t think they were explored deeply enough to make it truly a profound film. I suppose my feelings on this are mixed. I enjoyed watching but now that I’ve had some time to let the film breathe I find that it’s lacking that spark that keeps me thinking about it.

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