Tuesday, October 21, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

A fresh face steps into the Coppola family film business

By
From page A7 | May 15, 2014 |

NEW YORK — Very early in “Palo Alto,” you hear the voice of a judge issuing a teenager’s probation guidelines. Although you never see the adjudicator, the uncredited speaker is clearly Francis Ford Coppola. A few minutes later you can spot, affixed to the bedroom wall of one teenage character, a poster for “The Virgin Suicides,” directed by Coppola’s daughter, Sofia. And the “Palo Alto” cast includes Val Kilmer (“Twixt”), Colleen Camp (“Apocalypse Now”) and Don Novello (“New York Stories”), all of whom have appeared in Francis Ford Coppola-directed features.

It’s easy to conclude that Gia Coppola, the writer-director of “Palo Alto” and Francis’ granddaughter, swims in the very same waters as her filmmaking clan. But to dismiss her feature film debut as a collection of family favors is to diminish the accomplishments of the 27-year-old filmmaker. As one trade reviewer put it, “Palo Alto” is “the best feature film directed by someone named Coppola in a number of years.” Other early reviews have largely been equally kind.

After playing at the hallowed festival trifecta of Venice, Telluride and Toronto last fall, “Palo Alto” opened in limited theatrical release over the weekend. Loosely based on several entries in James Franco’s 2010 short story collection of the same name (Franco, who attended Palo Alto High School, has a part in the film as a creepy soccer coach and served as a producer), “Palo Alto” is Gia Coppola’s attempt to depict what the director believes many movies get wrong so often: the secret and desperate lives of adolescents.

“Teenagers are really fascinating subjects, and I thought James’ book articulated their emotions really well,” Coppola said over breakfast in Chelsea.

“Palo Alto” focuses on well-off but absently parented high school friends making so many questionable choices involving drugs, alcohol, sex and even driving that the movie plays to parents like something of a horror film.

The dark and dangerous Fred (Nat Wolff) is best friends with the directionless and often-drunk Teddy (Jack Kilmer, the son of Val). The two spend much of their listless hours in the company of several young women, including the promiscuous Emily (Zoe Levin) and April (Emma Roberts, Julia Roberts’ niece), who is probably the most virtuous of the bunch only because her misbehavior is more restrained. Without obvious judgment or approbation, the film follows the kids as they drift from one party to another, their inebriation and senselessness growing as Franco’s lecherous soccer coach preys on his underage baby sitters.

Coppola’s screenplay aims to better link Franco’s stories, which were widely criticized for poor writing (Franco “has spent way too much time on style and virtually none on substance,” a Los Angeles Times reviewer wrote). Though the stories are set in Northern California, the movie was shot in and around Los Angeles and is intended to unfold in an unidentified suburban setting.

Coppola is the daughter of Gian-Carlo Coppola, Francis’ son and Sofia’s brother, who was killed in a boating accident at age 22. At the time of his death in 1986, his fiancee, Jacqui de la Fontaine, was just a few months pregnant with Gia; De la Fontaine raised her daughter in Napa and L.A. Coppola studied photography at Bard College and following graduation – after she dabbled in bartending school — began making narrative-driven advertising videos, primarily for fashion and lifestyle brands such as Diane von Furstenberg and Opening Ceremony.

The reedy Coppola is quietly and carefully spoken and something of a fashion star herself, wearing Proenza Schouler, Rodarte and Saint Laurent, showing up at the opening of a Chanel exhibit in Las Vegas and making a short film for Elle magazine.

She ended up making “Palo Alto” as much by accident as design. She had met Franco in Los Angeles, and the two started trading ideas. When she read his collection, it touched a nerve.

“I didn’t have a very good time in high school,” Coppola said, and thought Franco’s stories captured the inarticulate heartache of adolescence. “That’s such a big part of being young — having crushes, not knowing how to say it and then missing the boat. Everything feels so much more heightened, and you are experimenting in ways that are really extreme because you don’t know the consequences. So you live a little bit more dangerously.”

Even though she had grown up surrounded by filmmakers, she was intimidated by the idea of directing her first feature. “But James said, ‘Just take the stories you like the most and write a little screenplay,’” Coppola said. So she put together a mini-script, assembled a group of friends and over a few days shot a test short adapted from the three-part story “April.”

“I hated the test. I was so disappointed in it,” Coppola said. She realized she needed to take a more professional approach, and that meant landing financing. Even with her family pedigree, she struggled to raise money. “I didn’t think anybody wanted to finance a movie by someone who had never directed before,” said Coppola, who served as a creative consultant and, as director of the film’s electronic press kit, worked with her grandfather on 2011’s horror tale “Twixt.”

She knew that money would be a double-edge sword, so she kept her ambitions modest, shooting over 30 days, so as to have more control over the finished film, with Franco’s company, RabbitBandini Productions, financing the film. To cut costs, for April’s bedroom she filmed inside her own childhood bedroom, which her mother had preserved as a time capsule once Coppola went off to college.

“We didn’t have to pay for the location, and it was already dressed – it kept the vibe of the shooting very mellow,” she said. It’s also where you can spot a poster of “The Virgin Suicides.” “That was the perfect movie for me,” she said of Sofia’s 1999 feature debut. She can’t remember whether she had the poster up when she was April’s age, but it made sense that the character also would have liked the film.

When Coppola began casting the film, she felt it was critical to select actors who were close to the characters’ true age. With the exception of Roberts, a late addition to the ensemble and is several years older than her character April, she largely succeeded.

“It was really important for me to have real teenagers,” she said. “Because so many movies today have 30-year-olds playing teens with perfect skin and beautiful clothes.” The younger Kilmer, who had never acted in a film before, was typical of the actors she was looking for: the right age and experiencing in their real life what the character was.

“She just asked me to read the first version of the script and put it through my perspective as a 17-year-old,” said Kilmer, who is now working on two upcoming features. “One huge thing is Gia didn’t make the weed smoking or the partying all that fun. It kind of ended up being dismal,” he said of the film’s depiction of teen ennui. Added Roberts, who is now 23: “I think they are at a tipping point – they are about to make big decisions about their lives that they are not yet ready to make.”

Coppola now seems ready to make another movie, now that the pressure of her debut is behind her.

“Not living up to my family’s reputation?” Coppola asked aloud. “It wasn’t something I thought about while making the movie. I felt it before. And I felt it after. But when we were making the movie, it all just dropped away.”

Los Angeles Times

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

.

Solano News

Crime key topic again at Fairfield candidates night

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A5 | Gallery

 
Pair testify in Laurel Creek shooting case

By Jess Sullivan | From Page:

 
Dixon corn maze breaks own world record

By Jess Sullivan | From Page: A5 | Gallery

PAL center seeks volunteers

By Jess Sullivan | From Page: A5

 
Police Department hosts employee recognition event

By Jess Sullivan | From Page: A5

.

US / World

Police say they might have spotted ambush suspect

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Fashion designer Oscar de la Renta dies at 82

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

Yosemite proposes raising entrance, camping fees

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
CDC releases revised Ebola gear guidelines

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Clinton: Midterm elections should motivate women

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

 
Surfer fends off shark attack with fist, board

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

WWII airman to be buried in Oakland

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Brown: California needs long-term vision on water

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Colorado proposes edible pot ban, then retreats

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Submarine hunt sends Cold War chill across Baltic

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Oscar Pistorius to finally learn his sentence

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Youths, tech workers duel over San Francisco field

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Suspect in Va. abduction charged in DC area rape

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Warming Earth heading for hottest year on record

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Lacking a plan, Abbas opts for rhetoric

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

 
Police: Indiana suspect hints at more killings

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

Turkey says it helps Kurdish fighters enter Syria

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Nigeria declared Ebola-free; ‘spectacular success’

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

Urgent-care clinics ill-equipped to treat Ebola

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
GOP governors don’t see ‘Obamacare’ going away

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

British royal couples’ 2nd child due in April

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
.

Opinion

Spering kept youth league going

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A11

 
Day, Blankenchip good for respective cities

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A11

‘Misleading’ mailer sent to residents

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A11

 
.

Living

Community Calendar: Oct. 21, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page:

 
.

Entertainment

Yearwood, Santana to perform at World Series

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

 
Standing ovation at Met Opera despite protest

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6 | Gallery

Still the Same: Bob Seger launching tour, album

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6 | Gallery

 
San Francisco radio stations ban hit song ‘Royals’

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

Pitbull to host American Music Awards on Nov. 23

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

 
‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ actor arrested in Idaho

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

NBC’s Snyderman faces credibility issues

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6 | Gallery

 
Not so fast cordcutters – cable’s not going anywhere

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5 | Gallery

TVGrid Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A11

 
.

Sports

Local Report: Armijo boys soccer team falls to Vintage

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B1

 
Steelers rally past stunned Texans 30-23

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Bumgarner against Shields in World Series opener

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Raiders plagued by 3rd-down defensive woes

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Champion drag racer Raymond Beadle dies at 70

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Stiviano lawsuit against Shelly Sterling dismissed

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

With TD mark in bag, Manning can set more records

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
49ers lose center Daniel Kilgore, needs surgery

By The Associated Press | From Page:

Giants-Royals: A capsule look at World Series

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Belichick, Brady praise Manning on TD record

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Penn State board to meet on disputed Freeh Report

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
McIlroy to skip 2 events to focus on lawsuit

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Column: Keselowski marches to his own beat

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Wanted: Cities interested in hosting 2024 Olympics

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Giants rely on core of 4 relievers

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Royals, fans bond over improbable postseason run

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Voynov suspended on domestic violence suspicion

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
.

Business

Facebook sues law firms, claims fraud

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

 
Apple reports record 39.3 million iPhone sales

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

US regulator: Fannie, Freddie in deal with banks

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

 
Sears plans to raise more cash via rights offering

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

Survey: Pay raises rarer despite strong US hiring

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5 | Gallery

 
US agency warns car owners to get air bags fixed

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

.

Obituaries

.

Comics

Pickles Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Bridge Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

Sudoku Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
Baby Blues Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Sally Forth Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Wizard of Id Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Dilbert Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
B.C. Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Crossword Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
Frank and Ernest Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Blondie Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Word Sleuth Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

Garfield Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Get Fuzzy Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Baldo Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Rose is Rose Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Zits Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
For Better or Worse Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Peanuts Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Cryptoquote Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

Beetle Bailey Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6