Palo Alto



Palo Alto
Runtime 98 minutes.
Not for children.

James Franco and Emma Roberts in “Palo Alto.”

James Franco and Emma Roberts in “Palo Alto.”

Gia Coppola, in her directorial debut (she also wrote the script based on several stories by James Franco, who also appears as a charming but corrupt soccer coach), is not unlike her aunt Sofia in making a film that at first appearances makes one feel lost in a Terrence Malick-inspired miasma monopolized by shots of people thinking.

This is a film about teenager angst that makes one worry if all today’s teens are like these, not an appealing prospect. While the film is slow, it is not uninvolving. In fact, the way Coppola directs, the film has a compelling feeling of tragedy. One keeps thinking that something terrible is about to happen.

The acting is very good, highlighted by an award-quality performance by Emma Roberts as the teen that Franco tries to seduce. Because all the teens are really teenagers (or close to it, anyway; Roberts is a youthful 22, others are younger), the age discrepancy between Franco (who is 36) and Roberts is so apparent that it makes the attempted seduction truly creepy, which is the way it is in real life. This makes it unlike a mature 30 year old Felicity Jones playing an 18 year old in an age-inappropriate relationship with Guy Pearce (46) in the otherwise excellent Breathe In. Also effective are Jack Kilmer (the son of Val Kilmer and Joanne Whaley) as a confused teen, and Nat Wolff (19) as Kilmer’s disturbing friend. Equally believable is Zoe Levin as a girl who tries to get acceptance through promiscuity.

While the movie seems to be extraordinarily slow (I wasn’t the only one in the audience who kept looking at his watch), I can’t write it off because there is a continuing tension throughout that keeps one interested to see what is going to happen. To me, off of this, Gia looks like a real comer as a director.

Runtime 2 hours.
OK for children.

Call me crazy, but I was looking forward to this, anticipating something special. Unfortunately, that was crazy.

Bryan Cranston and Aaron Taylor Johnson in “Godzilla.”

Bryan Cranston and Aaron Taylor Johnson in “Godzilla.”

While it boasts a cast that has some talent, people like Sally Hawkins, Juliette Binoche, Ken Watanabe, and David Strathairn, among others, one wonders why?

The first 45 minutes is an actual movie with dialogue and what appears to be the semblance of a plot. There is even a little acting required. In the last 45 minutes, however, the technicians take over and not a word is spoken, at least I didn’t hear one. The final ¾ of an hour is nothing but a special effects extravaganza of three monsters, one of whom is Godzilla, fighting to the death while destroying Las Vegas and San Francisco. This part of the film almost broke my record for looking at my watch, willing it to end.

Even if new director Gareth Edwards had ever heard of the word “edit,” and had the perspicacity to cut an hour from the film, the remaining 60 minutes would still have been too long.

Even worse was the music. Maybe had the music tried to contribute to the tension, the film might have been improved, but I doubt it. This is a film that was made solely to exploit special effects. But even the special effects are uninspiring. Godzilla him/herself at times looks to be made of iron instead of the giant lizard/dinosaur s/he’s supposed to be. Who knows what the flying monsters s/he fights are supposed to be? More to the point, who cares?

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