Metascore
69

Generally favorable reviews - based on 33 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 24 out of 33
  2. Negative: 1 out of 33
  1. Reviewed by: Stephanie Zacharek
    May 6, 2014
    100
    The movie perfectly captures the vibe of late high school, in a way that's both of its time and timeless.
  2. Reviewed by: Drew McWeeny
    May 21, 2014
    91
    Palo Alto is the sort of debut picture that makes me eager to see how Gia Coppola is going to grow and change as an artist, but it's more than just a demonstration of potential.
  3. Reviewed by: Manohla Dargis
    May 8, 2014
    90
    What tethers the movie and especially April and Teddy is how Ms. Coppola captures that exquisitely tender, moving moment between fragile, self-interested youth and tentatively more outwardly aware adulthood, a coming into consciousness that she expresses through their broken sentences, diverted glances and abrupt turns.
  4. Reviewed by: David Ehrlich
    Sep 16, 2013
    87
    Palo Alto is one of the best movies ever made about high school life in America (admittedly a low bar), blurring the lines between how unique it is to be a teenager, and how universal it is to feel like one.
  5. Reviewed by: Alonso Duralde
    May 8, 2014
    85
    Coppola doesn't let these kids off the hook for their stupid decisions, of which they make many, but she's not judging them for their folly, either. Unchecked privilege and clueless parents are trotted out as part of the problem, but Coppola seems more interested in exploring human frailty and vulnerability than she is in digging for a social statement.
  6. Reviewed by: Mark Olsen
    May 8, 2014
    80
    With Palo Alto Coppola transforms weakness into strength, vulnerability into armor.
  7. Reviewed by: Joe Morgenstern
    May 8, 2014
    80
    Ms. Coppola, who is Francis Coppola's granddaughter, has made a coming-of-age film about a culture in which few people — adults included — ever grow up. It's essentially plotless and slowly paced, much like the recent work of her aunt, Sofia Coppola, but astutely observed, full of fine performances and ever so guardedly hopeful about April and the boy who adores her.
  8. Reviewed by: Andrew O'Hehir
    May 8, 2014
    80
    A delicate tapestry of suburban gothic, romance and realism, with a surprising sweetness at its core and a wonderful star performance from Emma Roberts.
  9. Reviewed by: Todd McCarthy
    Sep 16, 2013
    80
    The best feature film directed by someone named Coppola in a number of years.
  10. Reviewed by: Steve Persall
    Jun 11, 2014
    75
    The stories might work better separately as uninterrupted short films. Combined, they lack cohesion but suggest that Coppola has a fine framing eye and ability to guide actors to good work.
  11. Reviewed by: James Berardinelli
    May 16, 2014
    75
    Palo Alto may not be the most exciting film about high school life to come along in the past few years, but it is among the most honest and words like "pandering" and "insulting" don't apply.
  12. Reviewed by: Ty Burr
    May 15, 2014
    75
    It’s a solid debut, and it gets to the heart of suburban adolescence in ways that slicker, more ostensibly mature movies don’t. That includes Aunt Sofia’s “The Bling Ring.”
  13. Reviewed by: Sheila O'Malley
    May 9, 2014
    75
    Palo Alto is a very strong first feature, prioritizing mood over message. Coppola does not diagnose underlying societal problems; she does not make assumptions about the cultural void in which the kids live.
  14. Reviewed by: Peter Travers
    May 8, 2014
    75
    A hypnotic movie of harsh truth and healing compassion. It sticks with you.
  15. Reviewed by: Sara Stewart
    May 7, 2014
    75
    The result is a thoughtful, dreamlike (at times, nightmarish) tour through the day-to-day lives of several suburban California teens.
  16. Reviewed by: Eric Kohn
    Sep 16, 2013
    75
    Though it lacks a cohesive means of fusing together its interlocking vignettes, Palo Alto effectively showcases the despair and sophomoric rebellion of teen life with a mature eye that clearly establishes a new filmmaker to watch.
  17. Reviewed by: Bill Goodykoontz
    May 29, 2014
    70
    The story has something of a flow, but the film feels more like someone dropping in on the characters' lives. It's more about observation than connecting dots. This isn't a detriment, particularly with strong performances to carry things along.
  18. 70
    The most powerful aspect of this strange little movie is the sense that in an instant things could go very, very bad — even if they don’t. Palo Alto puts you on edge because it’s all dangerous corners.
  19. Reviewed by: Scott Tobias
    May 7, 2014
    70
    The mimicry is so pronounced that it’s hard to locate a distinct, original sensibility beyond the film’s apparent influences. But talented young directors often need time to develop into singular ones, and there’s value in Coppola’s sensual, always-sympathetic feel for lost adolescents.
  20. Reviewed by: Peter Debruge
    Sep 16, 2013
    70
    While Palo Alto doesn’t seem to be saying anything new exactly, it boasts a clear and confident voice of its own, and it will be exciting to see where the young Coppola goes from here.
  21. Reviewed by: Steve Davis
    May 28, 2014
    67
    As lovely as it sometimes is, what this film needs is a little more shape and a little less ambience.
  22. Reviewed by: Oliver Lyttelton
    Sep 16, 2013
    67
    Coppola's screenplay neatly restructures Franco's source material into a deceptively tight narrative, and mostly proves to be raw, authentic and often very funny.
  23. Reviewed by: Richard Roeper
    May 15, 2014
    63
    Palo Alto is a well-directed but relatively slight, only occasionally provocative and unremittingly bleak slice of life.
  24. Reviewed by: Stephanie Merry
    May 15, 2014
    63
    Palo Alto starts strong but runs out of momentum. Strangely, as aimless vignettes give way to bigger life events.
  25. Reviewed by: Keith Uhlich
    May 10, 2014
    60
    Fortunately Coppola’s sensitivity is always evident, especially in the open-hearted performances she gets from Roberts and Kilmer (whose father, Val, has a funny, pot-addled cameo).
  26. Reviewed by: Elizabeth Weitzman
    May 8, 2014
    60
    Instead of falling into exaggerated exploitation, Coppola always stays true to the essence of adolescence — that sense of waiting, reacting and then waiting some more.
  27. Reviewed by: Rene Rodriguez
    Jun 12, 2014
    50
    Palo Alto is a pale imitation of the early novels of Bret Easton Ellis, who wrote about young ennui and misdirection from the inside out.
  28. Reviewed by: Jeff Baker
    May 30, 2014
    50
    Palo Alto is "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" without the wit; "River's Edge" without the depth. It's like reading a first novel by a talented writer who has something to say but isn't yet sure how to say it.
  29. Reviewed by: Scott Bowles
    May 15, 2014
    50
    Palo Alto marks one of those rare films that is so accurate in its portrayal of characters that the movie suffers for it.
  30. Reviewed by: Mick LaSalle
    May 15, 2014
    50
    Nothing in the story feels specific to that California city, or emblematic of it.
  31. Reviewed by: Ignatiy Vishnevetsky
    May 8, 2014
    50
    In distancing itself from its disaffected characters, Palo Alto evokes only more emptiness — and emptiness has a habit of being dull.
  32. Reviewed by: Jesse Cataldo
    Apr 24, 2014
    50
    It presents little that wasn't already done better in "Myth of the American Sleepover," an equally evocative tale of longing that was far more successful at matching teen tropes with atmospheric naturalism.
  33. Reviewed by: Rex Reed
    May 4, 2014
    25
    Mr. Franco must have had a very boring adolescence, because Palo Alto is a very boring movie.
User Score
6.7

Generally favorable reviews- based on 29 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 5 out of 6
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 6
  3. Negative: 1 out of 6
  1. May 11, 2014
    7
    At the outset of the film, I was highly fearful that the director would be satisfied to tread on well-worn territory, sticking to the same old cliches that every other teen movie trots out. (The party, "Never Have I Ever", Old dude wants to hook up with young girl). But something about the look of the shots, the soundtrack, and the fresh acting talent (especially Val Kilmer's kid as the lead actor) won me over. If you didn't want kids before, you won't want kids after seeing this film - but if you're a horny kid yourself? Check it out. Full Review »
  2. May 11, 2014
    6
    I wouldn't say the movie was boring, but it was definitely themeless, or at least seemed so to me. The characters were solid enough to lead the narrative, but the the story as a whole was quite disconnected. Full Review »
  3. Sep 11, 2014
    6
    A film that does a good job at showing the potential real life of a teenager, but struggles to get a good feel for the characters. Their is definitely a feel of realism coming from these teens and for the most part the film doesn't hold back, but after a while I started to wonder how much I cared. All in all it's a mild recommendation. B- Full Review »