Palo Alto – reviews of 'dreamy, lyrical' coming-of-age film

Gia Coppola makes impressive debut with lyrical take on James Franco's tales of teen angst


What you need to know

American coming-of-age drama Palo Alto opens in UK cinemas today. The film, a debut for Gia Coppola, granddaughter of Francis Ford Coppola (and niece of Sofia Coppola), is based on a collection of short stories by James Franco, who also appears in the film.

It tells the stories of the interconnected lives of a group of teenagers in Palo Alto, California, focusing on shy class virgin April (Emma Roberts), who is torn between a flirtation with her football coach Mr B (Franco), and her unrequited crush on Teddy (Jack Kilmer) an introspective artist, troubled by his reckless best-friend, Fred, whose life is spiralling out of control.

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

What the critics like

It's "an impressive debut by an exciting new talent", honest and moving, says Ian Freer in Empire. Coppola has a lovely languid, dream-like style and makes you care by drawing terrific performances from her young quartet.

It's "a drifty, appealing story about that twilight period between childhood's end and the start of young adulthood", says Manohla Dargis in the New York Times. Coppola captures that exquisitely tender, moving moment and pulls you in with colour, light and feelings as lovely as caresses.

"The Coppola family business would appear to be in safe hands for another generation if Gia Coppola's debut feature Palo Alto is anything to go by," says Alistair Harkness in The Scotsman. She has a dreamy, photographer's eye for detail and a lyrical, unobtrusive style, which she uses to wonderful effect in this wispy evocation of teenage life.

What they don't like

Emma Roberts is the standout as April, but away from her, "the film drifts and drags, and some of the image-making is rote", says Tom Shone in The Guardian. There's a slightness to Franco's teen angst stories, but Coppola senses this and handles them gracefully.

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.