Palo Alto (2013 film)

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Palo Alto
Palo Alto (2013 film).png
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Gia Coppola
Produced by
  • Sebastian Pardo
  • Adriana Rotaru
  • Miles Levy
  • Vince Jolivette
Written by Gia Coppola
Based on Palo Alto: Stories
by James Franco
Music by
Cinematography Autumn Cheyenne Durald
Edited by Leo Scott
Distributed by Tribeca Film
Release date
  • August 29, 2013 (2013-08-29) (Telluride)
  • May 9, 2014 (2014-05-09) (United States)
Running time
100 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $1 million
Box office $1.2 million[1]

Palo Alto is a 2013 American drama film written and directed by Gia Coppola, based on James Franco's 2010 short story collection of the same name. The film stars Franco alongside Emma Roberts, Jack Kilmer, Nat Wolff and Zoe Levin.


Teddy (Jack Kilmer) and his best friend Fred (Nat Wolff) are two stoner teenagers. April (Emma Roberts) is at soccer practice when her friends laugh about their coach Mr. B (James Franco) having a crush on April. Mr. B asks April if she can babysit his son Michael and he then offers her the position of striker. Fred and Teddy walk back to their car talking about what they would do if they got in a drunk driving accident. Teddy says he would drive away even if it was his crush, April.

At a party, Teddy invites April to the graveyard with him and Fred. The two hold hands as they run to the graveyard. April carves a heart into the tree and the two bond. They head back to the party and drink alcohol with all the other guests. Teddy goes outside to throw up when Emily (Zoe Levin) takes him to the bathroom to get mouthwash. April sees Teddy and Emily head upstairs and gets jealous. April starts talking to Ivan (Andrew Lutheran), who tries to flirt with her. Teddy and Emily kiss and she gives him a blowjob. Teddy goes outside to have a cigarette but gets upset when he sees April kissing Ivan. He and Fred leave the party and get into a car accident. Teddy quickly drives away but blames Fred for the accident as he spoke about it earlier. A police officer arrives at Teddy's house and arrests him for driving under the influence.

April sits by the pool with her friends Chrissy (Olivia Crocicchia) and Shauna (Claudia Levy). Chrissy tells the girls that Emily gave Teddy a blowjob and April gets upset. Teddy and his family are at the courthouse as he is put on probation for twelve months and ordered to perform community service at a children's library. Emily and her friend sit watching Fred play basketball. Fred later goes back to Emily's house and they have sex.

While Teddy is doing community service at the library, Fred comes to visit him and draws a penis in a children's book; Teddy later gets in trouble for both this and carving April's name into a bench. April goes over to Mr. B's house for help with her History paper. He kisses her and confesses his feelings for her. Later that night Teddy and Fred cut down a tree—the one April carved a heart in—with a chainsaw. The next day, Fred goes over to Emily's house. He admits that they went to a friend's house and got Emily naked in the bed so everyone could have sex with her. April goes to Mr. B's house again after he ignored her at soccer practice. She says she doesn't want to see him anymore but he claims that he loves her and wants to be with her.

In class, April gets called back for her history paper because her stepdad (Val Kilmer) wrote it. In Teddy's art class, the teacher observes Fred's art and tells him about how he went down the "tunnel of death" and realized he is "not Bob" as he drove down the highway. At April's soccer game she messes up and misses lots of chances to score. Mr. B offers to drive her home and takes her back to his house. The two sit on the couch and begin kissing then April loses her virginity to Mr. B. The next day when April is babysitting, Michael tells her he has another babysitter which upsets her. She tells Mr. B that she doesn't want to come over to his house anymore.

At a party, April goes outside to sit with Teddy. He says he cares about and loves her, which confuses her as they don't talk much. Later on Teddy and Fred go to get weed from Skull (Keegan Allen). Among other things, Fred tells Skull that Teddy talked about wanting to cut Skull's heart out although Fred was the one who had suggested it after he brought along a knife. Fred then asks Skull if he had a choice, would he rather be gay or a girl to which Skull and Teddy make fun of Fred and call him a "faggot". Fred questions why they think it's wrong to be with a man then explains that being inside a girl means that she's the one in control of the man and not the other way around. He then falls to the floor and starts crying. They get back in the car and Fred wants to drive down a one-way road, but Teddy demands to get out. Fred drives down the one-way by himself while repeatedly shouting "I'm not Bob". April texts Teddy, making them smile as Teddy walks alone.



Filming took place throughout November and December 2012 in Southern California, and at the homes of Val Kilmer and Gia Coppola's mother.[2]


Palo Alto premiered at the Telluride Film Festival in August 2013 [3] and at the Venice Film Festival in September 2013.[4] The film was shown at the Tribeca Film Festival on April 24, 2014,[5] and at the San Francisco International Film Festival on May 3, 2014.[6] Palo Alto was released in a limited release on May 9, 2014.[7] The film was later released on video on demand on July 29, 2014.[8]


The film received generally positive reviews; based on 118 reviews, the film carries a 71% "certified fresh" rating on review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes where the consensus states: "A promising debut for director Gia Coppola, Palo Alto compensates for its drifting plot with solid performances and beautiful cinematography."[9] On Metacritic, the film has a rating of 69 out of 100, based on 34 reviews, signifying "generally favorable reviews".[10]

Ian Freer of Empire gave the film 4 stars out of 5, calling it a "terrific, truthful, portrait of teenage lives, delivered with a naturalness and compassion of which seasoned directors can only dream." He praised the performances, particularly Emma Roberts', who he said "is the standout, heartbreaking as she suggests longings and anxieties without over-hyping it. Much like the film itself."[11] Tom Shone of The Guardian also acclaimed Roberts as the "standout", giving the film 3 stars out of 5. He also lauded Gia Coppola's "eye for cool composition", for posing Roberts against "repetitive, bland, pastel-colored surfaces" until her "pale, luminous beauty pops." However, he felt that away from Roberts, "the film drifts and drags, and some of the image-making is rote."[12]


Palo Alto (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
Soundtrack album by Various Artists
Released June 3, 2014
Genre Film soundtrack
Label Domino Recording Company
Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic3/5 stars (Soundtrack)[13]
3/5 stars (Score)[14]
Drowned in Sound6/10 (Score)[15]
NME7/10 (Score)[16]
Pitchfork Media3.5/10 (Soundtrack)[17]
5.5/10 (Score)[17]
PopMatters6/10 (Soundtrack)[18]

The film's soundtrack was released June 3, 2014 through Domino Recording Company.[19]

  1. "Palo Alto" by Devonté Hynes
  2. "Ode to Viceroy" by Mac DeMarco
  3. "Fútbol Americano" by Robert Schwartzman
  4. "Champagne Coast" by Blood Orange
  5. "5FT7" by Tonstartssbandht
  6. "Is This Sound Okay?" by Coconut Records
  7. "Rock Star" (movie version) by Nat & Alex Wolff
  8. "Senza Mamma" by Francesco Pennino
  9. "Graveyard" by Robert Schwartzman
  10. "So Bad" by Robert Schwartzman
  11. "April's Daydream" by Devonté Hynes
  12. "It's You" by Robert Schwartzman
  13. "T.M." by Jack Kilmer
  14. "You're Not Good Enough" by Blood Orange


  1. ^ "Palo Alto". The Numbers. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ "40th Anniversary Program Line-up, (August 2013)". 
  4. ^ "Huffington Post - Gia Coppola 'Palo Alto,' From James Franco's Book, Debuts At Venice, (September 2 2013)". Archived from the original on April 7, 2014. 
  5. ^ "Tribeca Film Snags 'Palo Alto,' Gia Coppola's Film Based on James Franco Stories". 
  6. ^ "James Franco, 'Palo Alto' grab key role at SF Film Festival". 
  7. ^ Palo Alto - In Theaters; Tribeca Films; May 20, 2014
  8. ^ "Palo Alto on iTunes". iTunes. 
  9. ^ "Palo Alto". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved May 21, 2014. 
  10. ^ "Palo Alto Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved May 21, 2014. 
  11. ^ Ian Freer (November 2014). "Palo Alto". Empire. Bauer Media (305): 64. Retrieved March 4, 2015. 
  12. ^ Tom Shone (May 8, 2014). "Palo Alto: 'Away from Emma Roberts, the film drifts' – first look review". The Guardian. Retrieved November 10, 2014. 
  13. ^ Christopher Monger, James. "Palo Alto [Music from the Motion Picture] – Soundtrack". AllMusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved December 27, 2014. 
  14. ^ Christopher Monger, James. "Palo Alto [Original Motion Picture Score] – Devonté Hynes". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved December 27, 2014. 
  15. ^ Moore, Sam (July 31, 2014). "Album Review: Devonté Hynes – Palo Alto: Original Motion Picture Score". Drowned in Sound. Silentway. Retrieved December 27, 2014. 
  16. ^ Wright, Lisa (August 1, 2014). "Devonte Hynes – 'Palo Alto OST'". NME. Inspire. Retrieved December 27, 2014. 
  17. ^ a b Cohen, Ian (June 18, 2014). "Various Artists: Palo Alto: Music From the Motion Picture/Devonté Hynes: Palo Alto: Original Motion Picture Score". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved December 27, 2014. 
  18. ^ Bergstrom, John (December 18, 2014). "Various Artists: Palo Alto (Music From the Motion Picture)". PopMatters. Retrieved December 27, 2014. 
  19. ^ "Palo Alto soundtrack at Amazon". 

External links[edit]