Sunday 15 September 2019

Palo Alto - 'God, you’ll feel like giving most of the cast a good slap after 20 minutes or so'

Palo Alto stars James Franco and Emma Roberts
Palo Alto stars James Franco and Emma Roberts

George Byrne

Drama. Starring James Franco, Emma Roberts, Jack Kilmer, Nat Wolff, Zoe Levin, Val Kilmer, Chris Messina, Talia Shire. Directed by Gia Coppola. Cert 16


If you think Dail Eireann is a right nest of  nepotism then it’s only in the ha’penny place compared to Hollywood.

Directed by Gia Coppola (grand-daughter of Francis, niece of Sofia and Roman, cousin of Nicolas Cage and Jason Schwartzman) and starring Emma Roberts (niece of Julia) and Jack Kilmer (son of Val, who has a small cameo role), this ensemble piece makes you wonder would it ever have gotten off the ground were it to be pitched by an unconnected newcomer.

Based on a collection of short stories by James Franco, Palo Alto shares certain traits with Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring in that it looks at the lives of white upper middle class teenagers as they drift from party to party, occasionally attending college, constantly smoking dope and drinking,  all the while moping about the place and discussing like, y’know, deep and meaningful stuff.

God, you’ll feel like giving most of the cast a good slap after 20 minutes or so of this.

April (Emma Roberts) and Teddy (Jack Kilmer) aren’t the worst of them, in fairness. She’s fallen under the spell of her sleazy soccer coach Mr B (Franco) while he’s stuck with a sociopathic screw-up of a friend in Fred (Nat Wolff), an obnoxious idiot who’d be sorted out in minutes if everyone wasn’t too stoned or wimpish to tell him to tone it down.

 April and Teddy are clearly attracted to each other but the script somehow manages to keep them apart  as we meander from one self-conscious, self-obsessed scene to the next.

Gia Coppola also wrote the screenplay and while there is a nice, music video sheen in some scenes, one can’t help but get the feeling that she overstretched herself in adapting the source material with the result that Palo Alto is as fuzzy, scattered and aimless as its protagonists’ lives.



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