Palo Alto

26 August 2014 | 7:34 pm | Cassandra Fumi

Gia Coppola’s directorial debut, Palo Alto, is a snapshot of attractive, young and privileged lives in California. Kids can be cruel, but teenagers can be crueller – particularly as they grapple with working out their place in the world.

Based on James Franco’s collection of short stories of the same name, the film weaves multiple vignettes together to tell the story of April (Emma Roberts), Teddy (Jack Kilmer) and Fred (Nat Wolff). This film doesn’t focus on the most popular girl in school, nor the loser. The teenagers are incredibly ‘normal’ and effortless, which is realised by the young actors’ performances, and the film score by Blood Orange heightens the drama. Palo Alto is uncomfortably familiar – we see teens drinking like fish, smoking (but not inhaling) and painful, world-shattering crushes. Mr Franco as Mr B carves himself quite the niche playing the creepy guy you still think is a babe. Unlike Alien, seen in last year’s Spring Breakers, Mr B is more demure, but perhaps also more fucked-up. Coppola’s direction is aesthetically reminiscent of her famous aunt’s 1999 film, The Virgin Suicides. With lots of close-up shots of her oh-so-attractive subject, each shot is like a photograph. The colour palette used and casual filming style makes you feel like you’re part of the story; perhaps this is why Palo Alto ticks over in your mind, again and again.