In “On the Rocks,” Sofia Coppola and her cast get lost in privilege

Ken Foster
3 min readOct 23, 2020

With “On the Rocks,” Sofia Coppola gives us just the sort of myopic, unaware tale that she’s always been mistakenly accused of making.

Rashida Jones and Bill Murray in On the Rocks.

It happens all the time in pop culture, primarily in popular music, when, after years of producing smarter than average pop that might fly slightly over the heads of critics, an artist comes out with a collection that is just as shallow as their worst critics have always claimed. And so, with her latest film, Sofia Coppola has invested a great deal of artistic resources to come up with a tale of privileged New Yorkers that is so myopic and out of touch, it doesn’t reflect any version of reality at all. It’s an alternate reality, but not the one we all need right now.

Let’s face it, this movie has me writing opening lines that are so long I can’t even follow them myself. Perhaps it is because I’ve always admired Sofia Coppola’s work. Even when others bashed films like Marie Antoinette and Bling Ring for seeming to not grasp the greater context of their stories, I admired them for exactly that quality. They seemed to intentionally show us lives without a moment of consequence, but Coppola seemed to trust us to bring that to the film ourselves. There’s a limit to how far this narrative frame can be stretched. Even The Beguiled literally begins and ends at the gates to the property where a bunch of white women have isolated themselves from the reality of the Civil War — but viewers wondered if it was really possible, now, to do a Civil War story that centers entirely on white women.

On the Rocks promised a completely different take on life: a comedy, with Rashida Jones and Bill Murray as daughter and father! What could go wrong? Though there are certainly a lot of worse ways to spend ninety minutes these days, the film itself is an antic dud. When it premiered in a virtual screening last month as part of the New York Film Festival, I sat watching it alone and longing for the experience of sitting among an audience against which I might check myself. The pacing is slack, the performances are unremarkable, Bill Murray has never been less engaging and the vision of downtown New York, which is apparently made up exclusively of membership only supper clubs, resembles nothing I’ve ever known. Then the reviews rolled in, declaring it a…

Ken Foster

Author of fiction and non-fiction; dog guy; bad boxer. New book, City of Dogs, is just out now from Avery/Penguin.