ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT MOVIES Movies Now

In James Franco's 'Palo Alto,' a new twist on a time-tested story

Director Gia Coppola puts a new twist on a time-tested story in James Franco's 'Palo Alto'
The main characters of 'Palo Alto' face teenage ennui and the challenge of impending adulthood

When turning James Franco’s book of short stories “Palo Alto” into a film, first-time director Gia Coppola said she decided to choose the stories that were “easiest to do cinematically and were a bit longer.”

The result? What actor Keegan Allen called the “high school story.”

The film, which held its Los Angeles premiere at the Directors Guild of America on Monday, follows three high school students: April, played by Emma Roberts, Teddy, played by Jack Kilmer, and Fred, Teddy’s unpredictable best friend played by Nat Wolff. Like many high schoolers, they are forced to face teenage ennui and the challenge of impending adulthood

“I liked writing about teens because a lot of things are new … it’s one of the most transformative periods of one’s life,” Franco, who also stars in the film, said on the red carpet Monday. “A lot of time their emotions on the surface more, so there’s inherent drama in situations that when you are older aren’t so dramatic.”

Allen, known for his role as Toby on ABC Family’s hit show “Pretty Little Liars,” said the film has a kind of universal appeal because “everybody has their own version of the high school story.”

“What Gia did that is so brilliant is take the stories that James wrote and translate that into a voice of a generation,” he said.

Roberts echoed Allen’s comments, noting the film resonates with audiences because of its authenticity.

“I think this is the most honest portrayal of youth I’ve seen in a really long time,” she said. “And I love that Gia let the characters be real ... she wasn’t afraid to let those awkward moments hang there.”

In the film, April, who is confused about Teddy’s feelings for her and anxious about the future, ends up having an affair with her flirty soccer coach, Mr. B (played by Franco), whom she also babysits for.

Though the film shows the underside of that romance, some of the stars noted more harmless versions of it in their own lives.

“I used to love a music teacher of mine,” said Chris Messina, who plays Fred’s father. “She had to know. I was probably in the fifth or sixth grade. Obviously I had no shot with her whatsoever. But I loved her.”

Allen added that it was his Spanish teacher that caught his eye. “[The crush] never came to fruition, obviously … but I was just totally in love.”

But not everyone was hot for teacher.

“All my friends were like, ‘How hot is Mr. So-and-So?’ " Roberts joked. "And I was, like, ‘Ew, he’s 30!’ ”

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
Related Content
  • James Franco, in flux
    James Franco, in flux

    On Film: Multiple meta-moments and a mixed bag of acting jobs make one fear for James Franco's future. Still, a Broadway turn and a few upcoming movie parts suggest a metamorphosis is underway.

  • Betsy Sharkey's best films of 2014
    Betsy Sharkey's best films of 2014

    The imprint of the auteur not only shaped the year, it very much influences each of my top 10 (or so) choices.

  • Artists and filmmakers make surprising leaps in 2014
    Artists and filmmakers make surprising leaps in 2014

    Exhibiting raw promise is one thing, but to exceed those initial flashes is something really special. Throughout this year, many filmmakers and performers were pressing on in remarkable ways, showing that even artists who have already exhibited notable skill, talent and accomplishment still...

  • Mark Olsen's best indie films of 2014
    Mark Olsen's best indie films of 2014

    Throughout the year people you thought you knew showed they were still full of surprises. In 2014, when some would see cinema as a storytelling mode and cultural force as an endangered species, these are vital signs of life. Here is Mark Olsen's top ten list of independent films:

  • Kenneth Turan's best films of 2014
    Kenneth Turan's best films of 2014

    What's the point of doing a 10 best list if you put only 10 films on it?

  • Daring films lifted the artform in 2014
    Daring films lifted the artform in 2014

    Like voices crying in the wilderness — rising above that vast wasteland of movie mediocrity — came the roar of the auteurs in 2014. A rangy group with varying aesthetics, they've left an indelible imprint on cinema despite the 400 or so of the marginal that clogged our theaters...

  • Everyone loses in a December deluge of films
    Everyone loses in a December deluge of films

    I try not to publicly argue with film legends, even those who are no longer alive. But when Mae West famously said that "too much of a good thing can be wonderful," she clearly was not considering a film critic's lot in December.

  • Goodbyes abound in 'Night at the Museum' as trilogy comes to an end
    Goodbyes abound in 'Night at the Museum' as trilogy comes to an end

    "Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb," otherwise known as "Night at the Museum 3," rates as more determinedly heartfelt than the first and not as witty as the second (and best). Also, no Amy Adams as Amelia Earhart in jodhpurs this time around.

Comments
Loading