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Palo Alto


Stars: Emma Roberts, James Franco, Jack Kilmer, Nat Wolff, Chris Messina, Zoe Levin, Olivia Crocicchia, Claudia Levy, Val Kilmer, Sandra Seacat, Talia Shire

Director: Gia Coppola

A rather languid portrait of teen angst, this represents a calling card for 27-year-old Gia Coppola, the latest directing talent to roll off the Coppola production line. The film is full of lives going nowhere, high school kids who presumably will find some direction in their existence, although not here.

Chain-smoking virgin April (Roberts), who has no discernible talent, doesn't fit in with her hedonistic friends any more than she fits in with the soccer team trained by the school sports coach (Franco, on whose book Palo Alto Stories the film is based), who has more than a fatherly eye on her. April isn't sure she should respond to his advances.

Meanwhile, she is adored from afar by cherub-faced Teddy (Jack Kilmer, whose father Val has an amusing cameo), who goes on wild rides with his friend Fred (Wolff). Fred's a guy who enjoys casual sex, but whose hyper, aggressive behaviour suggests a disturbed individual. And Teddy, who crashes into another car while he and Fred are stoned, drunk or both, and is fact on probation, is somewhat taken aback to find Fred's father is a closet homosexual who admires his hair (which to most of us looks a floppy mess).

While Fred seems headed for full-scale self-destruction, April and Teddy vaguely gravitate towards each other.

Nothing is resolved and happiness doesn't exactly beckon any of the characters here. Performances are appropriately locked in to the theme, but the dialogue doesn't really invite us to look too closely into these vacuous lives.

David Quinlan

USA 2013. UK Distributor: Pathe. Colour by FotoKem.
98 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 2, Swearing 3.

Review date: 16 Oct 2014