"Under the Skin"
A24 "Under the Skin"

Reviews and acquisitions are heating up at the 40th annual Telluride Film Festival, which kicked off yesterday. 

Three notable acquisitions titles debuted Thursday night: "Under the Skin," "Starred Up" and "Palo Alto." I saw the latter, the impressive debut of young filmmaker Gia Coppola (Francis Ford's granddaughter, born six months after her father Gio's accidental death) which will also play Venice and Toronto. Yet another dark high school drama in "Kids" mode centered on a group of teens with a penchant for finding trouble, "Palo Alto" is adapted from a book of short stories by James Franco, who produced and stars as the predatory coach of a girl's soccer team. Gia Coppola has a strong visual eye for telling details and handles her young stars well, among them a poised Emma Roberts, who holds the screen, and Jack Kilmer, son of Val, who also plays a distracting cameo, along with her mother Jacqui Getty, great aunt Talia Shire and grandpa Coppola, who provides some narration. The adults are not as authentic and convincing as the kids. 

Early reviews are upbeat: 
Emma Roberts in "Palo Alto."
Emma Roberts in "Palo Alto."

Gia Coppola proves to have quite the eye, if not quite the natural storytelling instinct of her cinematic kin, serving up a remarkably assured feature debut with "Palo Alto." Drawn from James Franco’s short story collection... this group portrait of disaffected Northern California teens goes to impressive lengths to develop the characters and shape their experience into something meaningful without ever quite cracking how its various vignettes should function as a whole.

The best feature film directed by someone named Coppola in a number of years, "Palo Alto" is a dreamy looking, unsensationalized portrait of badly behaved residents of a notably affluent California town... creatively, it’s almost the polar opposite of something deliberately confronting and self-consciously provocative like Harmony Korine’s "Spring Breakers." Commercial prospects are modest but it’s a very creditable first feature.


Borrowing liberally from the likes of "Kids" and "Elephant," first-time feature director Gia Coppola's "Palo Alto" is a largely familiar portrait of teen angst, but it's also a fairly accomplished one. Loosely adapting James Franco's collection of short stories, Coppola (the 26-year-old granddaughter of Francis Ford) assembles a fairly watchable, scattershot ensemble drama carried by naturalistic performances and artful restraint. 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. 

There was no doubt that Jonathan Glazer's "Under the Skin" would polarize critics upon its Telluride premiere late Thursday night. Starring Scarlett Johansson as an alien in human form on the prowl in Scotland, this is Glazer's long-awaited followup to 2004's equally divisive "Birth." Loosely based on an acclaimed 2001 novel by Michael Faber, "Under the Skin," which also plays Venice and Toronto, had top buyers Fox Searchlight, Roadside Attractions, Sony Pictures Classics and others lined up at the Palm in Telluride Thursday night. Glazer's third film since 2000's "Sexy Beast" was financed by FilmNation overseas. Here's what the critics are saying so far:

More reviews and "Palo Alto" trailer are below: