Films set in high school are often about boys; films which feature high school girl characters complex enough to surprise an audience (one measure of good screenwriting) are relatively rare–‘Say Anything’, ‘Mean Girls,’ ‘Clueless’ and from earlier this year ‘It Felt Like Love.’ ‘Palo Alto,’ the first film directed by Gia Coppola (niece of Sofia and granddaughter of Francis), who also wrote the script (based on the stories of James Franco) focuses on several main characters in high school, including April (‘American Horror Story’s’ Emma Roberts, whose auburn hair and dark eyebrows recall her Aunt Julia’s). We see her as she plays soccer, babysits, goes to boozy parties and is alone in her room.
Palo Alto is what would happen if Mean Girls had a major collision with American Beauty. The picturesque neighborhoods with the homes of the screwed up parents of the main characters was entirely reminiscent of American Beauty. The parents’ self-absorption was stunning at times. And every time April’s high school girl classmates talked, it was like nails on a chalkboard (cue: Mean Girls’ Regina George, Gretchen Weiners, Karen Smith WITHOUT the comedy).