Saturday, April 18, 2015
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

 
 
Child care program helps teen parents, students

By Susan Winlow | From Page: A1, 6 Comments | Gallery

 
Wood students entertain guests at Epcot

By Susan Hiland And Susan Winlow | From Page: A2

 
 
 
Solano County Science Fair continues to grow

By Bill Hicks | From Page: A4 | Gallery

 
 
Fairfield police log: April 16, 2015

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A9

Suisun City police log: April 16, 2015

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A9

 
Weather for Saturday, April 18, 2015

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B10

.

US / World

Family awarded rights to rare coins

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
 
Dog flu outbreak sweeps across the Midwest

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5, 2 Comments

 
AG announces anti-bias training program

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Iraqi officials believe Saddam’s top deputy killed

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

Germany mourns citizens lost in plane crash

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
Following Alps crash, debate over pilotless planes heats up

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

.

Opinion

 
Time for meaningful financial reform

By Paul A. Volcker | From Page: A8, 4 Comments

 
.

Living

Today in history: Saturday, April 18, 2015

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Community Calendar: April 18, 2015

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

Horoscopes: April 18, 2015

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: A7

 
My daughter is upset that I didn’t attend my former in-law’s funeral

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: A7

Idea from Adam Sandler film used to soothe dementia patients

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
.

Entertainment

.

Sports

Prep softball: Seldon powers Rodriguez to victory over Armijo

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B1

 
JC baseball: Falcons win as Pavlovsky, Evans homer

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B1

Prep badminton: Mustangs roll to 15-0 win over Wolves

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B1

 
Prep baseball: Haney hurls Vanden to 3-2 win over Benicia

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B1

Armijo nears girls soccer title with 2-0 MEL win

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B1

 
SCAC girls roll past MEL 55-28 in All-Star hoops game

By Marcus Lomtong | From Page: B1 | Gallery

SCAC boys slip past MEL in entertaining All-Star game

By Marcus Lomtong | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Athletics fall to Royals 6-4 in rematch of AL wild-card game

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Warriors, Pelicans enter series with different pedigrees

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Big Ten’s Delany lays out plan for freshman ineligibility

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Collmenter shuts down Giants, gets three hits in D-backs win

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Merritt’s 61 trumps Masters champion Spieth’s 62

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

 
2 minor league baseball teams to test game with 5-pitch rule

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

NBA could alter schedule, but no change to playoffs, lottery

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Coonan stepping down as Santa Clara’s athletic director

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel says he “let down” fans

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
49ers fullback Miller at home in Georgia after March arrest

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Rockhold hopes win over Machida launches him into contention

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Martina Hingis to make singles comeback in Fed Cup match

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Injured Giants fan throws out first ball in San Jose

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Flyers fire head coach Craig Berube after 2 seasons

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Hornets GM Cho: Stephenson ‘didn’t work like we expected’

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Brazil eyes historic medal haul in 2016 Rio Olympics

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
2 weeks before Mayweather-Pacquiao, not a ticket to be seen

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Before ruling out an upset in NBA East, listen to these guys

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3 | Gallery

 
Western Conference teams face perilous path to NBA Finals

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

 
This date in sports history for April 18

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

Back on the USA Network: Sports return with NHL playoffs

By The Associated Press | From Page: B10

 
.

Business

Secrecy shrouds decade-old oil spill in Gulf of Mexico

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5 | Gallery

 
Frederick’s of Hollywood reveals closing of retail stores

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

Don’t plan to line up for Apple Watch next week

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

 
Glaxo recalls flu vaccine due to potency problem

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5, 4 Comments

 
California home prices hit new 7-year high, sales rebound

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

.

Obituaries

Douglas Craig Sparks

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
.

Comics

Rose is Rose

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
Pickles

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

Peanuts

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
Dilbert

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

For Better or Worse

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
Baldo

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

Garfield

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
Sally Forth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

Baby Blues

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
Wizard of Id

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

Frank and Ernest

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
Blondie

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

B.C.

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
Zits

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

Beetle Bailey

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
Get Fuzzy

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

Crossword

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A7

 
Word Sleuth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A7

Sudoku

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A7

 
Cryptoquote

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A7

Bridge

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A7