For many years, Sofia Coppola has acted as the patron saint of a certain kind white affluent girlhood. Her films celebrate and commiserate with the awkward time between child- and womanhood, that brief, precious and painful moment on the cusp of knowing yourself and what you want from life.
She’s been one of our most celebrated and lauded women directors, one of only five to ever be nominated for Best Director at the Oscars and in a select club of two to win that title at the Cannes Film Festival. But she’s also been accused of being frivolous and out of touch, of creating worlds that speak solely for and to white upper-class women, eschewing themes of class and race that speak volumes by omission in her work.
On the Rocks, Coppola’s seventh feature film, stands out in this very distinct cannon as the work of a filmmaker trying to reimagine her identity as an artist. On the surface, it’s a father daughter romp around New York, lighter in tone than your typical Coppola film. But underneath that bubbly ode to city lights and old booze haunts lies a serious artistic existential crisis, combined with a tender — if bittersweet — exploration of family.
Laura (Rashida Jones) is worried. A successful author, she can’t seem to write anymore, instead spending hours staring at a blank page, grasping at any excuse to get out of the house. Her husband, Dean (Marlon Wayans) has been staying out later and later promoting his new startup, and recently came home from a business trip with his attractive colleague’s toiletry bag in his suitcase. (She had no room in hers, he claims when confronted.) Motherhood, marriage, and regular life feel overwhelming. So, when her charming art dealer and serial cheater dad Felix (Murray) flies back into the picture, Laura is relieved. Finally, someone she can be completely honest with. What follows is part detective story, part screwball comedy as the two try to suss out whether Dean is being unfaithful. Enjoy with an ice cold martini and a side of caviar, to keep things classy.
On The Rocks the kind of movie that might have been overlooked had we all had lives to lead, and places to be. But in the vacuum of the pandemic, the chance to take a tour of Coppola’s rainy New York City (with a car and driver, obviously) is too good to pass up. Stream it on Apple TV+ starting October 23, and once you’re done, travel in style through Coppola’s full oeuvre, all of which is available to stream. Oh, and it’s always cocktail hour in her films, so cheers!