On the Rocks gives a return to director Coppola’s old nostalgic style


After a brief premiere during the 2020 New York Film Festival, Sofia Coppola’s eighth feature film, On the Rocks, released to Apple TV+ subscribers, Oct. 22. Starring Bill Murray (in his third collaboration with Coppola), Rashida Jones, and Marlon Wayans; the film presents a familiar element often found in Coppola’s filmography: paternal bonds born from marital issues.

Many reviewers on the digital film review community, Letterboxd, noted the distinct similarities between this film and Coppola’s Lost in Translation. Both star Murray as an unlikely paternal figure. Jones (who leads opposite Murray) was the original pick for the lead role of Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson) in Lost in Translation

On the Rocks mainly suffers because of its lack of heart, a trend that has become noticeable in Coppola’s recent works such as her 2013 crime-drama film, The Bling Ring. Though Murray still is able to bring a sense of eccentricity and palpable charm, it feels rather worn out at this stage in his career. The characters feel hollow with the only wit or excitement coming purely from the prowess of the cast’s acting abilities.

Both Jones and Wayans do showcase their dramatic knack in a way that felt triumphant. For Jones, an actress who has gotten a recognizable status from roles in The Office and Parks and Recreation, it is satisfying to see her realistic performance of a working mother trying to give her kids a worthwhile childhood. Wayans, on the other hand, has been primarily stuck in outrageous and absurd comedies (with the exception of Darren Aronofsky’s Requiem for a Dream), leaving no room for his acting chops to really take hold. This performance shows that Wayans is still alive and kicking, something to rejoice over for anyone disappointed in his lack of recognition for his work under Aronofsky.

The film’s tone instills a nostalgic feeling in the audience for a time when things were simpler. Maybe it’s the Manhattan set story that feels reminiscent of Woody Allen films of the 1970s or maybe it just satisfies the romantic hole left unquenched with rom coms no longer saturating the market. Whichever it is, On the Rocks might not be Coppola’s boldest move in the cinematic medium, but it has enough of that indescribable feeling that makes the audience feel at home, something that makes the viewing experience worth the Apple TV+ subscription.