Palo Alto – Overview/ Review (with Spoilers)

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A film which truly shows how much the power of a recognizable name can do for you.

Review (with Spoilers)

Around the time of the Tribeca Film Festival, there seemed to be a lot of buzz about this movie. Showings were sold out, James Franco was in trouble for hitting on a minor, and it somehow became the star movie for the festival. Fast forward a few months later and I finally get to see it and, well I don’t understand the hype. See reasons why below.

Characters & Story

The film splits the focus three ways: One plot dealing with April (Emma Roberts) who likes Teddy (Jack Kilmer), but spends most of the movie instead messing around with her soccer coach Mr. B (James Franco); then you have Teddy dealing with getting probation for a hit and run, as well as dealing with his friend Fred (Nat Wolff) and the odd situations he puts them in; and lastly there is Fred who is the ultimate douche bag. Someone who isn’t redeemable in any sense of the word, and yet strangely gains the affections of this nice girl Emily (Zoe Levin) who finds him cute and entertaining. At first anyway.


Being that I focus more on the story and characters than how something is shot, honestly, there isn’t much to praise here. Roberts is the same teenage girl she usually is, and neither Kilmer or Wolff really have the type of stories which draw you in. However, I will say Wolff is guaranteed to upset you so if you consider an actor making you hate their character something praiseworthy, well that perhaps is the sole praise I can give this movie.


If just because this whole film seems like a really crappy show that was probably pitched to MTV and rejected. Starting with April, as with many of Roberts roles she plays someone who seems so angst-ridden and annoying that you just want to tune her out. As for Teddy, when he is not paired with Fred his story seems aimless, and the young man who plays him seems to have more in the way of looks than talent. Though perhaps it isn’t so much him as his story. Then, as for Fred’s plot, the character himself is insufferable and is just one of those bastards who make it so the sole reason you keep watching the film is just to see him get his comeuppance. Of which we don’t really get a true moment of satisfaction where his douche ways comeback on him.

And as for the overall story, it pretty much is watching a bunch of teens party, drink, smoke, and repeat. Sprinkled in there we may watch April deal with the ever so creepy James Franco, Teddy deal with community service, and Fred mess around with Emily, but none of these stories are developed to the point where they are interesting. In the long run, I would argue the power of the name Coppola, the fact both James Franco and Emma Roberts have star power, and because Hollywood loves a good film about teens drinking and doing drugs, are the sole reasons this movie was made.

Overall: Skip It

Films like these help remind me that it isn’t just blockbuster films which can come off lazy. Also, films with modest budgets can seem like there was no attempt to stand out and present fresh ideas or stories. Though what this film probably taught me the most is that all you need is a recognizable name, which brings financial backing, if you want to put a film out. Leading to one of the key reasons I’m labeling this as something to skip: It’s overhyped, underdeveloped, and looks like it mimicked all the most boring aspects of similar films and mashed them up together. Thus creating a film which may only keep you interested for you are hoping someone kicks Fred’s ass eventually.

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About Amari Sali 2524 Articles
New Jersey native Amari Sali takes the approach of more so being a media advisor than a critic to sort of fill in the gap left between casual fans of media and those who review productions for a living. Thus being open about bias while still giving enough insight, often with spoilers, to present whether something is worth seeing, buying, renting, streaming, or checking out at all. An avid writer, Amari hopes to eventually switch from talking about other people's productions to fully working on his own. Such a dream is in progress to becoming reality.

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