Palo Alto


Palo Alto

Critics Consensus

A promising debut for director Gia Coppola, Palo Alto compensates for its drifting plot with solid performances and beautiful cinematography.



Total Count: 125


Audience Score

User Ratings: 14,028
User image

Watch it now

Palo Alto Photos

Movie Info

Shy, sensitive April (Emma Roberts) is the class virgin -a popular soccer player and frequent babysitter for her single-dad coach, Mr. B. (James Franco). Teddy (Jack Kilmer) is an introspective artist whose best friend and sidekick Fred (Nat Wolff) is an unpredictable live wire with few filters or boundaries. While April negotiates a dangerous affair with Mr. B., and Teddy performs community service for a DUI - secretly carrying a torch for April, who may or may not share his affection - Fred seduces Emily (Zoe Levin), a promiscuous loner who seeks validation through sexual encounters. One high school party bleeds into another as April and Teddy finally acknowledge their mutual affection, and Fred's escalating recklessness spirals into chaos. (C) Tribeca


News & Interviews for Palo Alto

Critic Reviews for Palo Alto

All Critics (125) | Top Critics (42) | Fresh (86) | Rotten (39)

  • If you've seen Dazed and Confused, Thirteen and/or The Myth of the American Sleepover you'll know exactly what's coming.

    Oct 17, 2014 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…
  • All of this is potentially irritating to say the least, and yet, despite the junior star entitlement and teen-angst cliches, the film is unexpectedly engaging.

    Oct 16, 2014 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…
  • Gia Coppola's debut about the teen experience has a lyricism that transcends James Franco's mediocre source.

    Oct 16, 2014 | Rating: 4/5
  • A pale imitation of the early novels of Bret Easton Ellis, who wrote about young ennui and aimlessness from the inside out.

    Jun 13, 2014 | Rating: 2/4
  • Ultimately, "Palo Alto" is a messy yet haunting portrait of a particular time in life.

    Jun 12, 2014 | Rating: 2.5/4
  • It's accurate to say that "Palo Alto" is another movie by another Coppola about the lives of the rich, bored and disaffected, but that description sells the movie short.

    May 29, 2014 | Rating: 3.5/5 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Palo Alto

  • Nov 13, 2015
    The reviews for this aren't great, but I kind of liked it. It has that 90's indie film feel to it (it's not set in the 90's, or not so I could tell, but it really reminded me of films like Kids, All over me, Freeway etc). Just the kind of thing I love. My main criticism is that it doesn't have a true ending. It really felt like something was going to happen, but it didn't. And Emma Roberts is not a favourite of mine either, but she's not too awful in this one. I wasn't very impressed with all the smoking either. Is it really necessary to glamorise that disgusting habit? Those few sticking points lost it the star. But I did enjoy it overall and I think I need to watch it again, because it is subtle on some points. I suspect I missed a lot. The young cast do a good job. The actors playing Teddy and Emily were standouts.
    Nicki M Super Reviewer
  • Jul 07, 2015
    The meandering quality of the film's plot (which may put most viewers off) is in fact what I like the most about it, while the solid performances, nice cinematography and Gia Coppola's firm direction help make this a solid debut for her as a filmmaker.
    Carlos M Super Reviewer
  • Dec 01, 2014
    Gripping teenage drama.
    Matt G Super Reviewer
  • Oct 04, 2014
    "In a city of the future, it is difficult to concentrate!" Yup, I just quoted an obscure Radiohead song of the same name as this film, because this film is so hipster that it is written and directed by an obscure member of the Coppola family. This film does seem kind of like something that Sofia Coppola or someone like her would do, but no, they could only afford Gia, probably so they could afford Emma Roberts, James Franco and Val Kilmer. That's a decent cast for a film this obscure, although, in all fairness, Kilmer and Franco couldn't have been too hard to get ahold of, because Kilmer's son is in this film, and the film is based on a short story collection that James Franco himself wrote. Well, good ol' Jimmy Frank is a writer, too, and of the young adult struggles that ought to make this film an extra-big hit to teen girls... right? I'd say that teen girls probably can't entirely relate to this girl's being torn between some stoner kid and her soccer coach, but teen girls flirt enough with their coach when he isn't James Franco. Nevertheless, not much of anyone, let alone teen girls, is going to see that, which is a shame, because it is pretty enjoyable, if a little familiar. I joke about this film being marketable by the pop teens who are all about James Franco and so on and so forth, when really, as a pretty genuine and almost meditative indie drama that isn't afraid to touch on dirty truths about youths, this isn't your usual teen fare, which would be great if films like this haven't ironically become usual, with predictable conventions and tropes that this film falls deeply into time and again. Among these tropes is, of course, an overemphasis on the unlikable traits of teens, for although I'll be the first to tell you that kids are dirtbags who make nothing but bad decisions, and that this film does a pretty good job of selling its problematic characters enough to make them reasonably compelling on the whole, much of the obscenity and arrogance of these teens' nature is either overly stressed, or exaggerated. Something about this coming-of-age drama feels a little manufactured, and yet, a lot doesn't quite feel manufactured enough, because through all of its exaggerations and subtlety issues, this is a minimalist, realist drama that is intimate with questionable characters with slightly inconsequential issues (They might not be inconsequential to teens, but... alcoholism, drug use, sexual temptations, and a tedious lifestyle are, like, totally not grown-up issues), and not entirely evenly. Actually being based on a collection of short stories, the film juggles a couple narrative branches as a portrait on youth struggles, and although the layers converge, to one degree or another, the various characters and storylines don't really flow into each other all that organically, for the sake of focal coherency. It doesn't help that each layer finds itself a little dragged out, not so much by an excess in material, but by an excess in filler, the style of which is also little uneven, alternating between mere ramblings and artistically ethereal meditations on life being lived, but being aimless either way, all the way up to a cop-out ending that is more heavy with loose ends than intriguingly ambiguous. The film wanders about, with chatter between and meditations on questionable characters in an already familiar, thin and uneven story, and it's so competent, maybe even beautiful in its effectiveness that it will reward many, as surely as it so aimless that it will bore many. For me, I find the final product pretty decidedly underwhelming, though not as underwhelming as it could have been, because through all of its problematic inherent and consequential shortcomings, it endears as something of an artistically charged drama. To be so independent, this film does have a pretty keen artistic eye, and it is done justice by Autumn Durald's consistently handsomely bleak and often captivatingly brilliant cinematography, and by a score by Rooney's Robert Coppola Schwartzman and Blood Orange's Dev Hynes that is genuinely unique in its creative fusion of indie, ambient and classical tones into beautifully emotive soundscapes. Sure, there may be a few, mostly original enjoyable tunes to match every shoddy tune that reflects the flimsy musical tastes of most teens, but the score and visual style are really what engross in this surprisingly very beautiful film, which, as an artistic endeavor, rewards. As for the substance that goes with the style, it is not up to par with and is often corrupted by the artistic vision of this film, whose meditative atmosphere further thins a sense of consequence to a perhaps too intimate, and therefore minimalist story concept, but through all of the aimlessness is worthy subject matter deals with many of the usual anxieties, thrills, monotonies and vibrancy of youth, brought to life by smart highlights in a loose and occasionally unsubtle, but thoughtful, almost harrowingly extensive script by Gia Coppola. Coppola interprets James Franco's characters with so much well-rounded life that you tend to forget about their problematic traits and embrace them, and it helps that their portrayers are so well-cast and talented, with impeccable chemistry and rich respective charisma. Whether it be by source material author James Franco as a teacher who falls for and may end up betraying a student, or Nat Wolff as an energetic spirit who will find that he's not as delightful as he and his peers think he is, or Jack Kilmer as a good-hearted, but misguided kid who squander his potential, or the gorgeous Emma Roberts as a shy young lady whose coming of age will bring more than a few uncomfortable situations, each performance in this film feels honest and complimentary to the depth of this very human drama. As rich as any performance, however, is the directorial one by Coppola that does have some kinks to work out, - what with its not doing much to flesh out dramatic depths, or it getting carried away with its stylistic coherency and artistic layering - but is surprisingly strong for a first-time filmmaker, never getting too dull with an meditative on breathtaking visuals and tight dialogue, while celebrating the emotional connection of style, score work, writing and acting with this subject matter to capture a real sense of vibrant life. This energy is coupled with aimlessness, so as much as the film warms your heart, it leaves you a little cold (That ending seriously doesn't help), and that's kind of frustrating, because this film is so powerful so often, maybe not to where the limp final product truly rewards, yet certainly to where a genuinely enjoyable, if improvable meditation is crafted. All in all, this story isn't anything especially new, nor is it anything especially weighty in a story concept that is intimate with problematic and sometimes exaggerated characters, and is interpreted with too much focal and stylistic unevenness, and aimlessness that the final product sputters out shy of truly rewarding, but just barely, for the incredible beauty of Autumn Durald's cinematography and Dev Hynes' and Robert Coppola Schwartzman's score captivates on an aesthetic level, while reasonably well-rounded writing, strong performances - particularly by James Franco, Nat Wolff, Jack Kilmer and Emma Roberts - and revelatory, if slightly patchy direction bring enough life to worthy subject matter to secure Gia Coppola's "Palo Alto" as a frustratingly flawed, but still touching meditation on the joys and frustrations of modern youths. 2.75/5 - Decent
    Cameron J Super Reviewer

Palo Alto Quotes

News & Features