“Palo Alto” Gets Gritty at the Tribeca Film Festival


From writer and director Gia Coppola comes an astonishing debut feature that deftly captures the complicated ties, heightened emotions, and romantic highs and lows of adolescence. Based on several linked stories by James Franco “Palo Alto” is a teenage movie for the ages, made indelible though its ensemble cast featuring some of the most gifted up-and-coming young actors working today.

“When I met James, he kind of really wanted to make “Palo Alto” into a movie, and I had showed him some of my photographs, and we wanted to collaborate in some form or another,” Coppola said. “But when I read his book, I fell in love with it. It just really depicted teenagers in a realistic way that I hadn’t seen in a long time, and so I was really excited to have that opportunity. And I was sort of reflecting back on my youth, and I had enough separation to look at it nostalgically.”

So after working together, Coppola created the film which premiered at Tribeca Film Festival. In more detail, the movie is so layered and deals with a shy, sensitive April (Emma Roberts) who plays the class virgin -a popular soccer player and frequent babysitter for her single-dad coach, Mr. B. (James Franco). Teddy (Jack Kilmer) is an introspective artist whose best friend and sidekick Fred (Nat Wolff) is an unpredictable live wire with few filters or boundaries.

While April negotiates a dangerous affair with Mr. B., and Teddy performs community service for a DUI, secretly carrying a torch for April, who may or may not share his affection, Fred seduces Emily (Zoe Levin), a promiscuous loner who seeks validation through sexual encounters. One high school party bleeds into another as April and Teddy finally acknowledge their mutual affection, and Fred’s escalating recklessness spirals into chaos.

The film is so layered and complicated, but is played in such a seamless way. It’s refreshing to see Roberts play someone that is so different and so emotional in a internal way, you can tell how she is feeling from her facial expressions more than her words. In an interview, Roberts explained why she decided to take the role and what really made her want to be apart of the project.

“What I loved about this script was that it was just very subtle where a lot of the screen action happens,” Roberts said. “There’s so much emotion in the stage direction and not so much the dialogue. You don’t always know what to say and what everyone else will say and there will always be a lot of awkward moments. Gia let those moments sit there.”

“Palo Alto” opens in theaters May 9.

Photo Courtesy of “Palo Alto”
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Monica Gleberman began writing in 2000. She has been published on CNN and in the Suffolk Times, Examiner, The Daily Collegian, Demand Studios, Patch, and The Tattoo.

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