Paul Malikkal

Review

Palo Alto (2013)

Paul Malikkal

Teenagers will inevitably experiment with sex, drugs, and alcohol, and they'll inevitably find themselves in situations they aren't equipped to handle. Palo Alto is a film that understands this and doesn't punish its characters for wandering into this potentially dangerous territory, though it acknowledges that there are people who are beyond saving, who will inevitably pay the price for their irresponsibility. We're all familiar with the classic high school archetypes- the jock, the nerd, the slut, etc. And it's relatively simple to subvert the conventions of these stereotypes. But there is another group of admittedly more nuanced archetypes that Palo Alto humanizes- the degenerate who's squandering his potential, the self-destructive substance-abuser, the insecure girl who sleeps around, the sleazy teacher, and the girl next door who's experimenting with sex. And rather than simply borrowing these stock characters that were already passably complex, Palo Alto adds more dimensions to them and creates a memorably vivid tapestry of adolescent confusion.

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