The Film Version Of James Franco’s Palo Alto Doesn’t Look Entirely Stupid

It's directed by another Coppola.

James Franco’s writerly debut Palo Alto wasn’t a very good book. Stuffed with empty vignettes of potential rapists and unlikable drunk kids with a penchant for hate speech, it had one redeeming quality: the fact that you could turn to any page and outrage your closest friends by randomly reciting any depraved paragraph, and then guffaw in unison at how exceptionally terrible it was. So, in a sense, it brought people together through intense and utter hatred.

Somehow, because of James Franco’s superstar bankability and because people in Hollywood hate reading, the book’s been turned into a movie. Palo Alto, the film, is having its worldwide premiere at the Telluride Film Festival today, and shockingly, it actually looks promising.

What makes us so excited to see this? Let us count the ways…

1. It’s directed by yet another Coppola


Like many Italian families, the Coppolas stretch on endlessly. If you linked all of them by their arms and unfurled them across the world in a straight line, they’d meet each other on the opposite end. Also, they all make movies! GREAT movies. Is there not one disappointing failure amongst the bunch? No one slacking away in the compounds of Francis’ Napa Valley estate, lying by the Tuscan-inspired fountain and drinking sangiovese all day? I would be that Coppola.

Palo Alto‘s directed by Francis’ grand-daughter, Gia. Gia Coppola is 26 years old. She’s the son of Francis’ kid Gian-Carlo, who died in a speedboating accident in 1987 at the age of 22, before Gia was born. That is ridiculously sad. Palo Alto is her directing debut, and it already looks like she has her auntie’s aesthetic of understated malaise down pat.

2. Val Kilmer’s kid looks like the best sad teenager


See that slacker-y skater kid with the sweet cardigan and stripy shirt around the 0:25 mark? That’s Val Kilmer’s son, Jack. He plays Teddy, the troubled teen at the centre of this coming-of-age epic. I guess we’d all be cool if Val Kilmer was our dad, so let’s not give him too much credit.

3. Emma Roberts plays soccer


Soccer’s a great sport that’s often overlooked in indie flicks. Here’s a YouTube of Maradona dancing to prove it. It should also serve as a good expression of lead star Emma Roberts’ tough girl exterior (according to the internet, she recently beat up her boyfriend, which is insane), and tall socks style.

4. The film’s score is by Dev Hynes and Robert Schwartzman


Dev Hynes is a lovable musician in his own right (see: Test-Icicles, Lightspeed Champion) and a frequent collaborator with awesome kids galore (see: Solange, Sky Ferreira); Robert Schwartzman is yet another Coppola-blood tie and former frontman of TV icons, Rooney. Can they make beautiful music together? Who knows, but that chime-y, xylophone-y shit at the beginning of the trailer is the kinda thing festival audiences love jogging to.

5. It looks like you’re watching it through tears


According to IMDB, Palo Alto‘s cinematographer is some newbie named Autumn Durald. Some might argue that the film’s cloudy, washed-out, Instagram-ish look is played out at this stage, the familiar aesthetic of countless music videos and fashion blogs and advertising shoots and mumblecore nonsense for the better part of the decade. That’s a good thing to argue about if you’ve got nothing else to do in your life.

6. That final credits font is beautiful


If you’ve ever been out to dinner with designers, you’d understand that font talk is pretty tedious. “Helvetica this, Myriad Pro that…”; come on, I’m trying to eat. Still, a beautiful font can lift your spirits, like a gospel song or a hug from a baby. My designer friend said it’s “probably Poplar, I don’t f**kin’ know…”. In that case, I love you, Poplar. Go Poplar, king of fonts.

So yeah, looks like a promising addition to the top of your ‘To Watch’ list. More importantly, though, no one should ever have an excuse to curiously pick up a copy of Palo Alto at a bookshop ever again, which is a nice bonus.