Monday, May 19, 2014

"Palo Alto": spoiled teens behave badly in this "comedy" from the Coppola family, based on stories by James Franco

Palo Alto” may very well be where Facebook set up shop permanently, and I doubt Mark Zuckerberg would be able to find suitable high-tech hires among the spoiled high school kids who populate this comedy, directed by Gia Coppola (granddaughter of Francis Ford Coppola) – and with that movie family (and American Zoetrope) you never know. 

The actors who play the kids (male and female) are surely much more cleancut in their own lives.  Jack Kilmer (Val’s family) plays Teddy, who gets busted for DUI and hit and run.  Yup, the kids are always smoking, drinking (underage), doing drugs, and experimenting, like there are no consequences.  Dr. Phil would say, they can’t see around corners.  Don’t believe it.  Teddy is a gifted artist, so his otherwise reckless behavior seems especially stupid, as he then blows his community service in the library, where “it’s free” – oh, and this is the children’s library, where they have “I’ve You Give a Mouse a Cookie” (it will ask for a glass of milk next).  His girl friend, April (Emma Roberts) has her own problems, so they grow apart, until the stud Fred (Nat Wolff) captures her.  In time, it will be Fred who turns out to be the most reckless (especially at the ending).  Wolff, now 19, is a musician and composer in his own right and composed one of the songs in the background.

The script is based on some short stories by James Franco, who has directed some impressive indie films in the LGBT area (as well as being well known in higher profile “indie” films).  Franco, now 36, plays the history teacher and girls soccer coach Mr. B, and his face looks a little more furrowed than in the past.  The soccer practice scenes are actually interesting and well done as far as the sport itself goes.  (Oh, yes, that reminds me, Washington DC wants to build a soccer stadium next to Nationals Park.  A lot of people really like the sport.)  Mr. B, however, gives in to temptation in a scene with a female student, and in California, the age of consent is 18.  (And it’s usually a crime to become involved with a public school student you teach or coach anyway.  The film never goes into the legal consequences.)  There’s another scene where another thirty-something friend makes a pass at Teddy.  I thought about my own screenplay “The Sub” (which I am embedding now in a bigger “Do Ask, Do Tell” screenplay) where I set p a “temptation” like this, and put the screenplay online for anyone to see, causing tremendous controversy and ambiguity when I was substitute teaching (in 2005).  Jeffrey Toobin (CNN) could have weighed in on all this.

The official Tribeca site for the film is here.

As far as the teen behavior goes -- even more remarkably since the material comes from James Franco -- it struck me by comparison how well behaved all the gay kids are in "Judas Kiss" (even Shane).
I saw the film at Landmark E Street at the early show Monday night before a light crowd.
There was a special showing in a rented theater of “Love Is a Verb”  I had not heard of the film but the people said it had showed at the Maryland Film Festival.  I once had a debate with a minister in Indiana on whether “love is a transitive verb”.  I asked if it was a Christian film, but that turns out to be a faux pas. The film is the story of Fethullah Gulen and the charity “movement that he inspired” which involved service and sacrifice in remote parts of the world.  I understand the DVD will be available in early 2015. It doesn’t come up on Netflix yet.

Wikipedia attribution link for aerial of Palo Alto CA (my most recent visit, 2002, more extensive in 1995 and 2000). 

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