Sunday, 5 July 2015

Palo Alto (2013) review

There's nothing like watching rich white teenagers being bored, is there? And I especially love it when they moan about it. Palo Alto, based on the short story collection by James Franco (who also produced and starred in this film), is the debut feature of Gia Coppola, and, like her aunt Sofia's Somewhere, Palo Alto breezily waltzes it's way through a soft-lit sea of ennui.

Teddy (Jack Kilmer) is a stoner who gets into a car accident and ends up having to do community service in a children's library and an old folks home. April (Emma Roberts) babysits her football coach's Mr B's (James Franco) son, only to find out that he likes her likes her, and they end up having a rather unfulfilling relationship.

I'm not quite sure if we're meant to empathise with the characters. They are dully written, composite characters mashed together out of every alarmist parents nightmare. Even then though, if I was a parent, I'd be more worried that my child was that boring, not so much that they're nihilistically bored. The situations seem forced. Teddy is portrayed as being some kind of alcoholic, but his mediocre art skills show that maybe he can be a worth while person after all. April gets herself involved in a relationship with a teacher which neither of them seems to think is a problem, legally speaking. It's rather sickly watching Franco creep on that young girl. The film doesn't question if it's wrong, and it treats Mr B more like an illicit boyfriend out of a Shangri-La song as opposed to the pervert he is.

And of course, Teddy loves April.

Even supporting characters are detestable. Especially nasty is Fred (Nat Wolff), who screams abuse at a girl to get in a swimming pool, only to then tell her it was all a joke when she smashes a bottle against his head. I Found myself tremendously bored through this film. It was like it wanted to say something profound about the malaise of being a teenager, but instead it got itself all hot and bothered about describing April's "days of the week" underwear.

As I said earlier, the cinematography looked good, but that's all it really had going for it. Gia Coppola clearly has some talent as a director, but I'd like to see her tackling something a bit more interesting than boredom. Just go back and read Catcher in the Rye.



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