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Tribeca Film Festival Picks: James Franco's 'Palo Alto' And 'Electric Slide'

April 24th, 2014 11:05am EDT | Simbarashe By: Simbarashe

Tonight at the Tribeca Film Festival sees the long-awaited premiere of James Franco's Palo Alto, as well as Electric Slide, an L.A. send up about a real life bank robber who did it with style. You can check out my Starpulse reviews below: 

Palo Alto - 6pm, SVA
Theatre

The answer to James Franco’s recent internet hoax that went viral is finally upon us, and that answer is tonight’s premiere of Palo Alto, a film based on a book by Franco of the same name. Suburban, middle-class California teenagers coming of age . . . you know what you’re getting: some pretty faces, a lot of drinking, ill-advised sex and a love triangle. Only this one involves a soccer coach (Franco) who takes a keen interest in one of his players, April (Emma Roberts), who also happens to be his son’s babysitter.

Palo Alto - Emma Roberts

April likes her coach, but in a plausibly fond way, though at first she’s preoccupied with hanging out with her friends, a mischievous Fred (Nat Wolff) and Teddy (Jack Kilmer), who is slightly less mischievous but faces the brunt of all consequences. Things between April and Teddy are looking up until the wrong things go down at a party, and April’s left to question her emotions. Queue soccer coach! I’m being cynical, and I couldn’t help but feel that first-time director Gia Coppola summoned all of her might to make the film that her aunt, Sofia Coppola would want to make.

And yet, there’s some surprisingly good acting in this film, especially Kilmer (who’s father, Val Kilmer also appears), and newcomer Zoe Levin as Emily, the insecure girl who’s been sexually discarded by all of the boys because her reputation precedes her. It is especially nice to see her character given depth beyond the normal trope; here’s a girl who knows what the others are saying about her, and yet she makes her choices solely on the chance that someone will love her.

Palo Alto has some visually stunning moments and at times reminded me of the first act of Super 8 (and all of the old-school Spielberg send-ups that go with it). The music is laced with some good cuts from Blood Orange crooning against an Emma Roberts channeling her inner Lana Del Rey, which frankly, wins.

Grade: B
(note: Franco and cast are expected to attend this premiere)

Electric Slide - 9:30pm, Clearview Cinemas Chelsea

Los Angeles noir returns in the exceedingly stylish and sexy Electric Slide, a harrowing tale of an an antiques dealer who falls into a life of bank robbing as a means to pay off his loan shark whom he’d borrowed from to pay back the bank. (Did you get all that?) Jim Sturgess stars as Eddie Dodson, who was known back in the early 80s in real life as the “Gentleman Bank Robber.” It’s unclear whether the man is a poseur or if his sartorial taste is for real—he knows the vernacular of posh and his wardrobe is legit; but while his L.A. apartment has a nice view of the skyline, it’s furnished with the kind of old stuff that looks good because it’s been hodge-podged with other eccentric old stuff. He’s horrible with money, and the cash he’s borrowed from the bank to fund his business has been spent on furthering this lifestyle.

Jim Sturgess and Isabel Lucas in Electric Slide

Consequently, the money that he’s borrowed from a sketchy businessman (Christopher Lambert, whom, I have to be honest, every time he uses his sinister mode I’m unsure if I should be laughing or not), has also been blown on god-knows what. Dodson’s the kind of man who walks by while you’re sitting on a bench and you turn to your friend and whisper sarcastically, “This guy.” He had a thing, with a socialite (Chloe Sevigny), but soon falls for a mysterious Pauline (Isabel Lucas). To the architecture of the film, Pauline basically represents the dream of Los Angeles, why people go and who they see themselves falling for on their way to becoming famous. This is not a slight—Lucas is effective wight he few things she says, and spends much of her screen time floating through scenes like a model half-drugged. But that’s the life.

Dodson’s claim to fame wasn’t just that he robbed over 60 banks, but the way in which he did it: singling out young, women tellers, flirting with them and demanding money as if it was a sex act (the line is simply, “Give it to me,” but Sturgess manages to do a lot with that line). The tellers are all in awe, they can’t help themselves. Dodson robs so many banks that after a while it’s unclear what he wants; he can’t help himself. After a while, the film sort of goes the same way. The third act gets a little murky, the but the plot eventually regains focus and ends nicely. There was something missing from me, and I’m not sure what it is, but I felt inclined to see it through. I’m reminded of Sturgess’s ability as an actor, someone who seems to have all the tools but is perpetually a half-step away from being a bigger star like a counterpart like Andrew Garfield because the latter has a fraction more charisma. And that’s what this film feels like: really good, but not great. The cinematography is candy, as is the soundtrack, though I would’ve been infinitely more impressed if it had been laced with more iconic punk songs that ruled Sunset Boulevard during that era. Maybe I’m nit-picking.

Grade: B-

Photo Credits: Getty via image.net


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