James Franco's collection of autobiographical short stories is adapted into a remarkably evocative film by Gia Coppola, granddaughter of Francis. And the film's next-generation credentials don't end there. It stars Emma Roberts (daughter of Eric) and Jack Kilmer (son of Val), superb young actors who bring their characters to vivid life even as multiple story strands weave around them. And what makes the film important is its willingness to present teens authentically, often in ways parents probably wish they didn't know about.
It's set in suburban Northern California, where high school teen April (Roberts) worries that she's the last virgin in her class. She's secretly in love with Teddy (Kilmer), and he likes her too, but everyone thinks he's having a fling with the class slut (Zoe Levin). So while babysitting one night for her soccer coach (Franco), she is both startled and thrilled when he makes a move on her. Meanwhile, Teddy's best pal Fred (Nat Wolff) is causing chaos everywhere he goes, as the school's teens go from party to party indulging in alcohol and drugs, testing the boundaries of authority. And their parents seem fairly oblivious to all of this.
Coppola shoots and edits the film in a way that's deeply personal, focussing on the inner lives of the characters rather than the gyrations of the various plot strands. This gives the film a surprisingly cohesive tone, linking everything together into a single tale of young people trying to work out a path to adulthood in a society full of mixed messages. And things rarely go as expected. For example, Teddy is sure he'll go to prison when he crashes his car while driving stoned, but he is given a second chance. And he discovers that doing community service is actually rather enjoyable.
Continue reading: Palo Alto Review
April (Emma Roberts) is a shy young girl attending high school in Palo Alto, California. While she has an unrequited crush on Teddy (Jack Kilmer), a flirtatious relationship with her soccer coach, Mr. B (James Franco) is steadily developing into something more physical and altogether more dangerous. At the same time, in the same town, a girl named Emily (Zoe Levin) is the polar opposite of April. Emily indulges in sexual interactions with Teddy and his friend Fred (Nat Wolff) who are themselves engaging in acts of juvenile destruction. But as the kids are forced together as their paths collide, questions arise about the nature of love, lust, boredom, and recklessness in the modern youth culture.
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