George, a lonely and fatalistic teen who has made it all the way to his senior year without ever having done a real day of work, is befriended by Sally, a popular but complicated girl who recognizes in him a kindred spirit.
Shy, sensitive April is the class virgin, torn between an illicit flirtation with her soccer coach Mr. B and an unrequited crush on sweet stoner Teddy. Emily, meanwhile, offers sexual favors to every boy to cross her path - including both Teddy and his best friend Fred, a life wire without filters or boundaries. As one high school party bleeds into the next - and April and Teddy struggle to admit their mutual affection - Fred's escalating recklessness starts to spiral into chaos.
When April is babysitting Michael, he is playing Mortal Kombat. The buttons show on screen are the buttons on the Playstation controllers, while in the actual scene we see Michael and April playing with Xbox 360 controllers. The Xbox 360 is also the video game sitting besides the TV. See more »
You want to cry and smile, but instead you just stare and you can't do anything.
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Gia Coppola's first film is a winner. I'll admit I made the mistake of reading a few reviews before heading to the theater, all rather shallow and seeming to miss what was important, but they influenced me to the point that I planned to switch films after an hour. But when that hour came, I couldn't leave. I was thoroughly engrossed and invested in the characters. I wanted to know how things worked out for them, and I wasn't disappointed.
Several reviewers have said that it's a good first effort, but it meanders. That it doesn't have much substance. That it has no plot. All wrong, in my opinion. I haven't read James Franco's short stories, upon which this film is based, but I can say that Ms. Coppola has done an excellent job of writing a cohesive screenplay with a good story arc and enough plotting to clearly show that 3 of the main characters -- April, Teddy, and Emily -- learn something important enough from their experiences to change for the better by the end of the film. And the 4th, Fred, is heading for an epiphany, if he can survive long enough to have it. What many have missed is that Ms. Coppola has gotten to the truth here.
Palo Alto accurately captures the teen angst, how hard it is to figure things out, how adults can disappoint/mislead/manipulate us, how we make bad choices, but always with the feeling that we're propelled to do exactly that thing at that moment. High school is not fun. It's something we endure. And it can be an achievement just to get out alive and be heading in a better direction.
It's been ages since I was in high school, and even though this generation is very different than mine, human nature hasn't changed, and the problems haven't changed. I recognized every character, every situation, every bad choice, every consequence. I especially related to "not knowing what to say, so saying nothing." But most important, and I credit Ms. Coppola for this, I really cared about these characters. I even had empathy for one unlikeable character.
That's good writing (credit Franco and Coppola). And it's very good directing, considering the main characters played by Emma Roberts (a standout), Jack Kilmer, Zoe Levin, and Nat Wolff don't have a lot of experience. I like to follow directors whose works say something meaningful about life and honestly earn our emotions. I'll be following Ms. Gia Coppola's work. This is a fine film.
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