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Palo Alto - Film Review

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by Abby Blanton (subscribe)
I'm Abby, and I'm a little tourist, a little housewife, a little student, and a lot awkward. An expat wife living in and exploring all the fun Perth has to offer! Visit my blog, to read more adventures, reviews & musings.
Published August 3rd 2014
A new high school flick classic?
There are some movies that quintessentially sum up life for teenagers during their tumultuous years in high school: The Breakfast Club, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Dazed and Confused, Clueless. There are many others, coming out every few years or so, and 2014 is the year of the moody high school drama, Palo Alto.

Based on a series of short stories written by the infamous James Franco (which were in turn loosely based upon his own high school years growing up in Palo Alto, California), the film centers around two high schoolers, on the cusp of adulthood, April (a self proclaimed "nice" girl trying to get a grip on what her future has in store - played by a beautifully self-deprecating Emma Roberts) and Teddy (played by newcomer Jack Kilmer, who like April, makes a few...okay a lot...of errors in judgement on his path out of adolescence). The primary cast is rounded out by James Franco who plays creepy girls soccer coach, "Mr. B", and the eerie and disturbed Fred, played by Nat Wolff who depicts a moody and affected teen perfectly (albeit, alarmingly and unlikeable).

Directed and adapted by Gia Coppola (granddaughter of Francis Ford and niece of Sofia), Palo Alto is a strong first film, held up by interesting cinematography and strong character development - though the viewer can easily get lost in the angst of the various vignettes.

While there is no one, set narrative per say (given the adaptation of a myriad of Franco's short stories, the movie moves in and out of various characters' vingettes and journeys), Palo Alto manages to evoke that general sense of confusion and aimlessness that one associates with their own teenage years - to that end, the film definitely prioritizes mood over message: even if you can't relate to all of the money, drugs, sex, and alcohol (of which there is plenty in Palo Alto), you can't help but recall your own desperately confusing, heartbreaking, and exciting years of high school and adolescence.

Nothing wholly surprising or unusual happens during Palo Alto, but the execution of Roberts, Kilmer, and Wolff, are spot on, leaving the viewer with a sense of nostalgia, relief (that they don't have to relive high school), and angst. A solid cast and excellent cinematography make this film. Will it stand the test of time like its predecessors? Only time with tell...
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