Palo Alto, CA

Returning home after a long time away can be a refreshing experience. Returning home after your first two or three months of college can be a learning experience. Those first few months of independence can be such a blur of new relationships and personal change that upon returning home we find out how different a person we have become. In Palo Alto, CA, four friends are learning more and more about themselves on the last night of their Thanksgiving break.


Alec (Aaron Ashmore) decided to pledge a fraternity at the behest of his new college buddies without thinking about it too much. Once home, he meets a fellow fraternity brother, Anthony [Ryan Hansen (I miss you Karma Rocket)] and begins to see what a life in a frat can do to someone who cannot differentiate between stereotypical machismo and brotherly support. Nolan (Johnny Lewis), an introverted computer science nerd, uses his time at home to break free from his personal barriers and open his mind a little upon meeting Jamie (Autumn Reeser), a fellow UCLA freshman. Patrick (Ben Savage), an eighteen going on forty-year-old businessman, learns the hard way that there is always time to figure out your future; the most important thing is enjoying the present. Lastly, Ryan (Justin Mentell) is the unnecessarily immature friend returning home to have sex with his “high school hottie” before developing an unexpected friendship that changes his outlook on life.

The guys represent a friend each and every one of us had in some capacity during our early years of college. Palo Alto does an excellent job not playing favorites to the heartbreak story of Patrick, or the new love story of Nolan and Jamie. Each story is given an equal opportunity to grab your interest, which ultimately makes the ninety minutes pass unnoticed. Since each story has limited screen focus, it is up to the actors to make the most of them. Savage and Lewis beat Ashmore and Mentell by a long shot.

Patrick and his younger brother, Andrew (Connor Ross), have an excellent dynamic that Savage and Ross portray perfectly. They work very well together as brothers that may bicker, but care and want the best for each other. At moments Savage reverts back to hyper Corey Matthews days, which is fun and nostalgic in its own right, but relatively out of place for the film.

Johnny Lewis comes out as the most likable person due to his ability to break Nolan’s shell a little due to his chemistry with Reeser and Tom Arnold (Morgan, a bus driver friend of Nolan’s). Lewis and Reeser seem to have a genuine connection, which allows them to make the most of the limited time given to them.

Alec and Ryan have much less interesting stories (especially Ryan considering his crippling immaturity). Luckily they are not poor enough that they ruin the film. In general, Palo Alto is enjoyable, relatable, realistic, and a solid chance for those of us past that time in our lives to look back and reflect.  Embrace your inner teenager and you will not be disappointed

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