Written and directed by Gia
Revolving around a small group of high school kids in a suburban anywhere, the film follows shy April (
Franco's stories were all written in a flat first person but from alternating points of view so that from one to the other it could be difficult to tell whose story was being told, as the characters were all enveloped in the same fog of disaffection and internal malaise. Coppola adapts a strategy of similarly decentralized storytelling, such that no character is really the protagonist, which makes room for assorted one-off scenes and allows characters such as Teddy's reckless friend Fred (
The film's real discovery may in fact be the debut of Kilmer, son of Val Kilmer and
The movie's sharpest scene — along with a monologue recounting a death dream delivered by Don Novello, the onetime Father Guido Sarducci, as an art teacher — is one in which Jack Kilmer sits alone on a couch with
And the same may be true of the 27-year-old Coppola as well, in the sense that "Palo Alto" feels like it needs the subtitle "notes for further study."
In a short film she made on the making of her grandfather Francis Ford Coppola's recent
This sort of growing up in public requires a bravery of its own, and a similar sense of emotional openness and revelation courses through the film. With "Palo Alto" Coppola transforms weakness into strength, vulnerability into armor.