In Sofia Coppola’s (“Lost in Translation” and “Somewhere”) new film “On the Rocks”, available on Apple TV+ this week, New York is unrecognizable, so does Coppola’s filmmaking style. This low-key comedy-drama probably is the lightest, slightest film Coppola ever made, but it’s not a bad thing. New York City here is more like Rome. Cinematographer Philippe Le Sourd (his second collaboration with Coppola after 2017 “The Beguiled”) turns the city into a Woody-Allen-ish New York nostalgically. The Big Apple is gloomy, reflecting Laura’s (the marvelous Rashida Jones) increasing desperation of her life. 

Jones plays Laura here. She used to be a successful writer, but now she hits the creativity wall with a family of two daughters to take care of. Laura also thinks her husband Dean (Marlon Wayans) is cheating on her. He’s always on the way for business trips with his young and beautiful assistant Fiona (Jessica Henwick), who is called “Fifi” by Dean (that’s a sign, isn’t it?) The doubts about his unfaithful to marriage start to take over her mind, making her question if she is the one responsible for putting their passion to the end instead of him.

Her dad Felix (the wonderful Billy Murray) comes in after she shared her feeling with him. It’s always delightful to see Coppola and Murray work together for the third time after 2003 “Lost in Translation” (Murray should win an Oscar that year!) and 2015 Netflix holiday special “A Very Murray Christmas”. Felix is an art gallery owner and a charming playboy who seduce every attractive woman in front of him. When Laura talks about her concerns about Dean to her dad, Felix sees an opportunity to fix the broken relationship with his daughter. He suggests they should spy on Dean together and hopefully can catch him in the action. “Can you just act less excited about it? Because this is my life, and it might be falling apart,” Laura tells her dad.

Too many things to love about “On the Rocks” even it’s unlike the typical Coppola’s film (so many lines and dialogs). Coppola had made a couple of wonderful films about relationships and female identity. Her relationship to the real world is complicated and unusual enough with her family name “Coppola”, not even mention her dad is one of the greatest masters who reinvented and shaped cinema history with “The Godfather” and “Apocalypse Now”. There’s a heartbreaking vulnerability in “On the Rocks” by putting a daughter under the gigantic shadow of a man. The film is also Coppola’s personal study of a broken marriage and family (Google it, you’ll see). Even though Coppola’s real life isn’t that tragic, you have to appreciate she’s talented enough to touch audiences by sharing her subjective feelings.

Then, you may be surprised to realize Jones is much like Coppola. Jones also has a real-life experience of living under her parents’ unreachable shadows (her father is the legendary Quincy Jones, and her mother is Peggy Lipton), and her performance adds up this emotional wound when she’s with Murray. Jones and Murray are flawless together: Murray’s charisma is natural, and Jones’ reaction to him is sensational and beautiful.

We all pursue something and choose what kinds of people we want to be by making our own choices for lives. Our decisions may lead to failures, yet we all can learn from these mistakes and hopefully become a better person next time. “On the Rocks” shows us the true nature of human beings, the loneliness we all suffered, and the dilemma of balancing our roles between parents and children. No one ever says life is easy and simple…it’s extremely difficult and complex actually, but there are rewards for love, marriage, and parenting. No film this year is more comfortable than “On the Rocks”. When Coppola invites you to enjoy the bittersweetness of life, you won’t dare to say no. It’s an infinite pleasure to accept her invitation.

GRADE: B+

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  • Distributor: Apple TV+
  • Production: A24 and American Zoetrope
  • Director: Sofia Coppola
  • Writer: Sofia Coppola
  • Cast: Bill Murray, Rashida Jones, Marlon Wayans, Jessica Henwick, and Jenny Slate
  • Premiered at New York Film Festival on September 22. Released in selected theaters on October 2. Available for streaming on Apple TV+ October 23, 2020

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