here), it plays like the product of someone who dug hard on Jesus' Son and is trying to sort out how to use voice like Faulkner. It's a litany of "well, of course that would happen" and "well, of course they would say thats" that's precocious, sure. It's got potential, sure. But ultimately it's a kind of messy blend of abrupt sentences and navel gazing. The story falls flat, forces its epiphany, and reads like something we've read too many times before. Adapt it into a movie? Well, the problems don't just go away.
The restructuring of the storylines is here carried out by Gia Coppola, the latest addition to the family all-star roster. Coppola is the granddaughter of Francis Ford, the niece of Sofia and Roman, and an heiress apparent to a sort of indie legacy. In adapting the Palo Alto stories, she makes a series of deft edits. Things are smoothed out and streamlined. Characters are renamed and mixed up, made somehow easier to understand where Franco left them tough to imagine. The Joe and Michael of "Just Before the Black" are here Teddy (Jack Kilmer) and Fred (Nat Wolff), two bed-headed teen miscreants navigating the edges of their friendship through a haze of pot smoke and sexual conquests. Their stories are pushed only slightly behind April's (Emma Roberts) fumblings. April is, perhaps, the most aware of the characters depicted in Palo Alto, and Gia Coppola draws her out as a sort of amalgamated pastiche of her aunt's protagonists. She's a smart, quiet girl who dumbs herself down to play the high school social game. April smokes cigarettes at soccer practice, jumps on her bed and rehearses telling people off, listens to the sexually explicit ramblings of her friends, and stares into the distance. She's the object of uncharted affections for her coach (James Franco) -- an adult whose attentions confuse and attract her -- and also for Teddy.
If you ask the admissions committee, perhaps they're just a little too workshopped, not quite fresh enough. The balance of the film's generalities and the character particulars is too uneven, and what Palo Alto asks you to feel is somehow more than it's capable of offering.