Sofia Coppola’s new film doesn’t really go much of anywhere, but the road traveled is easy and the banter refreshingly charming.

Evoking a Woody Allen-esque style, Coppola’s On The Rocks hit AppleTV+ this weekend to little fanfare, but with a softer touch, a melancholic wistfulness and the dulcet tones of Academy Award nominee Bill Murray philosophizing on why men tend to stray from committed relationships.

It’s a film that forgets how upper class it is like so many Allen movies do, but Coppola balances out the gender dynamics between her characters much more fluidly.

At its core, On The Rocks is about a woman at a crossroads in her relationships with two men – the workaholic husband she suspects may be falling out of love with her and the playboy father who wanders back into her life at an unexpected time.

While there’s an overarching plot that follows Laura as she and Felix track Dean’s whereabouts for evidence of infidelity, the only real reason On The Rocks exists is to give Coppola time to reminisce about her own relationship with her father, award-winning filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola, and make subtle commentary on the good and bad of distant relationships between generations of artists.

The pairing of Rashida Jones’ struggling writer Laura and Murray’s traveling art dealer Felix makes for the most compelling moments in the entire film, which often deal with raw humanity and the differences between men and women in the most frank, honest discussions shown on film in quite some time.

That these conversations are happening in dark New York City hotspots over pricey cocktails is the height of a COVID-induced lust for social interactions in a pre-pandemic world that feels much longer than six months ago.

Murray has rarely been as charming as he is in On The Rocks, effortlessly waltzing his way across the screen and making a man who could easily come across as snide or sleazy feel relatable and someone viewers can rally behind.

It’s a testament to Coppola’s ability to put the Oscar-nominated actor in the perfect situations, framing him just off center to highlight the charm in his eyes and writing lush dialogue that Murray can elevate with his wry sensibility. 

His Felix is almost in conversation with a younger version of himself, Murray’s Bob Harris from Lost In Translation that Coppola directed, as Laura seems plagued with a similar malaise to the melancholy Bob felt wandering around Japan in Coppola’s 2003 film.

Known mostly for comedic television work, Jones stabilizes the film with a performance that shows growth for a character in Laura who lets life happen to her until her father pushes her to take control of her situation. There’s a genuine haze to Laura that Jones is able to bring out and then slowly remove over the course of the film that’s subtle, yet beautiful to watch.

One of Coppola’s best cinematic tricks is her terrific use of Jenny Slate’s Vanessa, a single mom who talks Laura’s ear off with her own complicated relationships with men outside the elementary school classroom where they pick up and drop off their children. These little snippets that last a minute or so offset the more subdued, dramatic moments and pop with a burst of energy that reengages the audience for the next big scene.

For a slow-burn dramedy, On The Rocks is exceptionally cinematic with Coppola having a distinctive eye for placing the camera at exactly the right angle to further character development and story. Cinematographer Phillipe Le Sourd does his best work outdoors, using the city landscapes to help give the film an elegant sense of place.

Not a front-runner for awards season, On The Rocks is still Apple’s best shot at their first Oscar nomination or win in a major category with Murray a strong contender for Best Supporting Actor and Coppola a possibility for Best Original Screenplay.

On The Rocks may be Coppola’s most subdued film to date, often evoking the subtle luxuriousness of those Lincoln car commercials echoing the tones of Matthew McConaughey’s bourbon-soaked voice. It’s an easy film wandering in the malaise of mid-life stagnation, which could be simply dismissed as lazy, but On The Rocks maintains a casual breeziness thanks to Murray’s tremendous lead performance and the brisk 95-minute run time.

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