Movie review: Palo Alto (2013)

“I weep for the future.” As I watched Palo Alto, I couldn’t help but think of this line from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

No plot, no redeeming characters, Palo Alto is based on short stories by James Franco, short stories that depict the mind-numbing youth he spent in Palo Alto, California.

I don’t imagine that the movie didn’t do justice to the short stories. I suspect that the short stories really didn’t contain much worthy of making a movie.

Palo Alto looks at the pointless lives of several teenagers in an affluent area of California who fill their days with smoking, drinking, drugs, and sex. Their lives are rather meaningless with far from stellar adults surrounding them.

One girl sleeps with anyone and everyone, singularly or collectively. Another girl—a virgin—seeks the affection of her soccer coach and sleeps with him but then rejects him after she discovers that he is fucking another classmate and soccer team member.

The guys aren’t much better. One guy is arrested for hitting another car while drunk and pretty much fails at performing community service—all the while continuing the drinking and smoking that landed him where he is. Another guy, his best friend, tries to act as crazy as possible. In actuality, he is seeking ways to harm himself and others around him. I began to wish he would just do away with himself.

As the movie showed no redeeming qualities in plot or character, I thought at the very least I would be treated to scenery around Palo Alto that I might recognize. That was not to be. I would not have recognized the location if it wasn’t the movie title.

In the end, I wonder why Franco thought these plot-less stories needed to be recounted and why Coppola thought a movie needed to be made of them. This movie was a glimpse of a world that makes me weep—no, actually sob—for the future. Ferris Bueller and his gang look like kids with direction and purpose in life compared to the April, Emily, Teddy, and Fred crowd.

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