A lit­tle bit aim­less, but aren’t all teenagers?

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FILM REVIEWS - TARA BRADY

PALO ALTO

Di­rected by Gia Cop­pola. Star­ring James Franco, Emma Roberts, Nat Wolff, Zoe Levin, Clau­dia Levy, Olivia Cro­ci­c­chia, Jack Kilmer. Club, IFI, Dublin, 98 min The lat­est mem­ber of the Cop­pola clan to get be­hind a cam­era de­liv­ers a de­but that feels very much in the fam­ily tra­di­tion. No, Palo Alto doesn’t look much like The God­fa­ther or Apoc­a­lypse Now. Gia Cop­pola’s adap­ta­tion of James Franco’s au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal short-story col­lec­tion goes to the same lazy, dead­ened places as her aunt Sofia’s films. It is largely plot-free and a lit­tle bit pleased with its own cool. But Gia Cop­pola – daugh­ter to Fran­cis’s late son Gian-Carlo – demon­strates a strong touch with ac­tors and an un­der­stand­ing of con­tem­po­rary mis­eries. Set in the tit­u­lar Cal­i­for­nian city (where Franco grew up), the pic­ture wan­ders among a group of well-off teens as they face-up to loom­ing adult­hood. The open­ing scene is char­ac­ter­is­tic: two boys talk non­sense in a car – who would they be in “olden times” – and then drive the ve­hi­cle point­lessly (and harm­lessly) into a wall. Much at­ten­tion is fo­cused on an­ti­so­cial Fred (Nat Wolff), boozer Teddy (Jack Kilmer, son of Val) and the rel­a­tively well be­haved April (Emma Roberts). They hang out when the par­ents are away. Teddy is forced to do com­mu­nity ser­vice. April is propo­si­tioned by her sleazy soc­cer coach (Franco). There is po­ten­tial here to fash­ion a de­press­ingly de­bauched revel in the style of Larry Clark’s Kids or Har­mony Korine’s re­cent Spring Break­ers. In­stead, Cop­pola of­fers a much gen­tler, more for­giv­ing por­trayal of con­tem­po­rary youth. There is some­thing of early Richard Lin­klater in the film’s ac­cep­tance of teenage dis­so­lu­tion and its re­lax­ing form­less­ness. Kilmer re­pels, then charms. Roberts con­tin­ues to im­prove. Kilmer’s dad turns up, joint in hand, to of­fer the next gen­er­a­tion a sup­port­ing wave. They seem to be do­ing all right for them­selves.

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