Gia Coppola’s directorial debut, “Palo Alto,” is a promising introduction that captures the striking, convoluted crux of adolescence.
Based on the short story collection by James Franco, the film focuses on shy April, (Emma Roberts), and sweet, stoner Teddy (Jack Kilmer) as they partake in youthful carousing, muddle through teenage angst, and tip toe around their feelings for one another.
Gia Coppola excels with this material, and skillfully utilizes the fiction, pulling out only what’s relevant. It isn’t a typical teenage sell, full of hallway antics, homework blues, and oversold parental problems. It focuses on the emotional chords of high school, and isn’t afraid to hold the moment as the characters struggle to identify it. She takes her time with slow-footed pacing and casts a tone of drifting through adolescence, letting the characters exist as time passes. There are a brief moments of a first timer getting their feet wet with choppy editing, and pulling away from a shot when you wanted her to hold it, but those are by far overshadowed by her successes. She captures the spirit of youth, the uncertainty of adulthood, and the longing for a first love.
This is one of my favorite films of the year so far because Coppola isn’t afraid to let you feel it, and it’s almost if she wants you to remember what it was be a teenager, in love and uncertain. Oh so beautifully sweet.