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It was perhaps inevitable that the other filmmaking Coppolas would come up in my conversation with Gia Coppola on May 2, 2014. The granddaughter of Francis Ford, Gia is making her feature film directorial debut with PALO ALTO, which she adapted from friend James Franco’s book of the same name filled with interconnected short stories about restless teenagers coming of age in that city.
Coppola was refreshingly unassuming, even helping to clear a table for me to set up my recording suite. When we sat down to talk, the conversation turned to how Franco’s insights about teenage girls struck her, why she wanted her cast to keep dream journals, and why she deliberately chose an actress, Emma Roberts, who was older than her character, and everyone else cast as a teenager. As for her grandfather’s advice, it’s as universal as the film’s themes: go with your gut.
PALO ALTO is intimate in its approach, universal in its essence, it’s a film about adolescence, fitting in, and growing up. Based on an interconnected short story collection by James Franco, it follows high-school kids in the eponymous city through the exuberant ennui of adolescence, scuffling their way, literally and figuratively, through the awkward stage between being children and being adults. It’s a stage not helped by adults who have their own issues with boundaries. The film stars Emma Roberts as April, the girl with a crush on her soccer coach, played by Franco himself, and pondering the attention of Teddy, played by Jack Kilmer, whose bromance with Fred pulls him into murky waters legally and threatens to keep him there. Parties that go through the motions of celebration vie with small moments of revelation, heartbreak, and the suspense of bad decisions made by essentially good kids. The film co-stars Val Kilmer, Zoe Levin, Nat Wolff, Chris Messina, Don Novello, and Talia Shire. Coppola directed from her own script, and this is her feature film directorial debut.
Click here to listen to the interview (8:56) PALO ALTO — Gia Coppola Interview.