Palo Alto (2014) - Gia Coppola
April is a shy, sensitive high school student who plays soccer and frequently babysits her single-dad coach, Mr. B's son. Teddy, another high school student, is an introspective type whose best friend Fred is a wild, unpredictable delinquent. While April begins a dangerous affair with Mr. B, Teddy finds himself in trouble with the law after a DUI, forcing him into community service. Teddy secretly likes April a lot, who may or may not reciprocate the affection he himself hasn't quite figured out how to express it. Gia Coppola's Palo Alto is a high school ensemble that effectively captures the youthful fumblings that come with finding oneself. We see how these young characters are desperate to break-free of their parental confines, feeling trapped in a world where they most learn about a lot of new things on their own. That being said, one could make an argument that Palo Alto is an indictment on parental figures, with nearly every single one in this film being despondent to their children. There is an abundance of characters in Palo Alto, all of which are explored, but in the end I believe this actually hurts the film in the long run, leading to a few dramatic sequences that didn't produce the emotional resonance intended. Fred would be the best example of this, a character who personifies unpredictability but is never given the necessary scenes to truly make us feel deeply for his character at the end. Palo Alto is a film that feels a little overly dramatic, almost exaggerated at times, wanting to touch on every type of situation that youth can face during their coming of age years. To be fair, maybe I am merely out of touch and these things happen all the time now in high school, but I found this desire to give everyone a dramatic storyline ultimately hurting the main narrative story of April and Teddy, the two most interesting characters. Palo Alto is a film of many beautiful moments that truly captures the American high school experience but its intent to consistently add drama onto drama ends up making the film feel a little light on substance.
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