James Franco has been called the busiest man in Hollywood right now and it is easy to see why. The trailer for his film Palo Alto is now available to give audiences a sneak peak at the dark film. How dark is it? Well Franco plays an older man who wants to have sex with his 14 year-old babysitter in the film.
The film was adapted from Franco’s own book of short stories titled Palo Alto. This the the same book that was adapted into a trio of films that the 35 year-old actor, director, screenwriter, producer, teacher and author went to crowdfunding to produce.
This film sees Franco as sexual predator in a world of teens who are out for thrills. He stars as Emma Robert’s soccer coach. A daring move for the performer. The film looks dark and disturbing. The trailer shows the 14 year-old babysitter, played by Roberts in various activities. Playing soccer; in a romantic clinch with Franco and performing part of a strip tease.
The film was adapted by Gia Coppola who also directs the feature. Besides Franco and Roberts, the film includes Val Kilmer and his son, Jack. If the director’s name sounds familiar it is because her grandfather is Francis Ford Coppola. This is her first feature film as director and if the trailer is anything to go by, she is not afraid to court controversy.
The film is centered around rich and bored teenagers who want to experience everything drugs, sex, alcohol and trouble. In the trailer, one character is heard telling his son that this is his last chance. James Franco definitely wants to help his 14 year-old babysitter out in the sex department in Palo Alto.
While Franco looks fine in his role as the older, hopeful, sexual predator, Roberts doesn’t convince as a 14 year-old girl. Not in the trailer and we doubt whether she will in the film. At 22 years-old, she looks 22 even devoid of makeup. The freshly scrubbed look just doesn’t sell. While Kim Darby in the 1969 film True Grit was able to carry off fresh-faced innocence, Roberts just looks like an older woman trying to pull off looking like a teen.
Granted, because of the subject matter, filmmakers would have to be careful just who they cast in such a role, but it has been done before with younger actresses in films that had equally dark themes. Jodie Foster in Taxi Driver or Brooke Shields in Pretty Baby for instance.
Perhaps part of the problem lies in James Franco looking like a very youthful 35 year-old in the film. If the part had been played by an older man, the age difference might have looked more convincing. But in all likelihood, Roberts would have still looked too old.
But age problems aside, the trailer makes the film look like a variation of Perks of a Wallflower, but darker. It does appear interesting enough to warrant a look. All the actors in the film’s main roles are exceptional at their craft and even the director’s aunt, Talia Shire has a role in the film. But don’t bother looking for her name on IMDb. She appears to be uncredited.
James Franco may not be the busiest man in Hollywood all the time, but right now, with two separate films out he fits that label quite nicely. As the lecherous soccer coach who wants to have sex with his 14 year-old babysitter in Palo Alto, he has taken a chance on changing his image and it will be interesting to see if he can pull it off. You can see the trailer below.
By Michael Smith