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