Palo Alto

Adapted from a short-story collection by actor James Franco, this debut drama by Gia Coppola follows a handful of high-schoolers in southern California as they drink, smoke grass, suffer through their classes, and try to progress from casual blow jobs to actual romance. The movie often recalls Larry Clark’s early work (Kids, Bully) in its effortless authenticity, though in contrast to his emotional brutality, the tone here is gentle and understanding. Given the standard coming-of-age situations—one of the girls (Emma Roberts) sleeps with her soccer coach (Franco); one of the boys (Jack Kilmer) pines for her silently and tires of his asshole buddy (Nat Wolff)—I can’t say I’m going to run out and buy Franco’s book. But Coppola’s nocturnal scenes often reminded me of Rebel Without a Cause, another tale of young people taking solace from the night.