Film buffs who go to festivals like Telluride have been more or less trained like poodles to sit up on their hind legs and go “yap! yap!” whenever a new Coppola comes along and makes a film. Gia Coppola, director-writer of the occasionally irksome but mostly decent Palo Alto, is the latest recipient of this largesse. My attitude is that talented filmmakers deserve respect and allegiance, even if their paths have been paved by family connections. And it has to be acknowledged that The Latest Coppola has delivered a pretty good film here. Or at least one that I felt more or less okay with when it ended.
I talked things over with three or four colleagues after it ended, and we were mostly agreed with Gia Coppola shouldn’t be penalized for being the granddaughter of Francis because her work is certainly above-average.
Based on producer and costar James Franco’s same-titled short story collection, it’s basically about a demimonde of Northern California teens revelling in vacant nihilism and coping with the tug of nascent adulthood. In that sense it sometimes feels boring as shit because most teenagers — hello? — are boring as shit to hang with. I knew that when I was 17 even and I really know that now. Teenage males, in particular. All but worthless, not into anything, hormonal dogs, booze-swilling, to some extent self-destructive…go away and come back when you’re 29 or 30.
There were times, I must admit, when I got very, very angry with some of the characters, particularly an abrasive youth played by Nat Wolff. You know right off the top this kid is a menace to everyone and everything. He comes on-screen and you’re going “oh, God…here we go.” I was honestly rooting for his death 20 minutes into the film, and felt more than a little pissed than I had to endure his company all the way through. At the very end there’s a distinct hint that he’s toast, but by that time his personality and actions had left me numb.
The worst thing Wolff’s character does is initiate the destruction of a beautiful tree, which to me is not much different killing a person or a dog. And the consequences of this act are never even addressed. No, I take that back. Somebody says, “Oh, that’s so sad.”
I have to quit and do a HuffPost podcast thing, but I’ll return in about 45 minutes.