Sofia Coppola Movies Ranked

6. On the Rocks (2020)

On the Rocks Review

On the Rocks is a departure from Sofia Coppola’s signature visual flair and unconventional story structure. She trades in her usual sun-drenched, washed-out California for the blues and greens and concrete of New York City. As was the case with The Beguiled, cinematographer Philippe Le Sourd adds dimension and shadow. It is probably Coppola’s darkest, moodiest-looking movie yet.

Tonally, though, On the Rocks is rather light-hearted. The story follows Laura (Rashida Jones) as she gradually becomes convinced, with the help of her womanizing father Felix (Bill Murray), that her husband Dean (Marlon Waynes) is cheating on her. The movie covers familiar terrain for Coppola. In a lot of ways, it’s an older, more mature version of Somewhere. The film explores the complex relationship between fathers and daughters, and it deals with similar themes of abandonment as well as the loneliness of loving someone that is just a little too far out of reach.

While the plot is fairly predictable, it is still a joy to watch. Rashida Jones and Bill Murray are excellent together, with each giving quiet, nuanced, and heartbreaking performances. Laura’s monologue toward the end of the film, where she finally blows up at her father and yells at him for his treatment of his family, and women in general, is great.

On the Rocks isn’t as visually compelling as some of its predecessors, but it is a heartwarming story of self-acceptance and the simple pleasures of unconditional love.

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5. Priscilla (2023)

Priscilla Review

In Priscilla, Coppola once again explored the loneliness and isolation of girlhood, this time through the eyes of Priscilla Presley, who was just 14 years old when she met Elvis Presley and was married to him by the time she was 21. Through her eyes, we experience the thrill of first love, the suffocating reality of fame, and the eventual relief of finally discovering who you really are. It had been nearly two decades since Coppola tackled the life of a real person, and while Priscilla shares many of the same themes as Marie Antoinette, it is much more successful in it’s execution.

Both Marie Antonette and Priscilla are films about young girls who are groomed and manipulated by those in power. Just as Marie Antoinette was forced into the cut-throat world of 1700s French politics, Priscilla also grows up far too quickly and is thrust into an adult world of drugs and celebrity and ego before she even has a chance to figure out who she is and what she really wants. While Marie Antoinette is drenched in cotton candy pink and rose gold, Priscilla is a much cooler, darker film, every frame filled with light blues, crystal chandeliers, darkened clubs and bedrooms, and soft, white light through windowpanes.

Coppola’s films never miss the mark when it comes to production and costume design, and you can tell she’s having an absolute blast immersing herself in 1950s and 60s Americana. The flawless recreation of dozens of magazine covers and articles from the time period deserve their own award. Costumes, and hair and makeup, reveal character; no one does it better than Coppola. In her hands, Priscilla slowly transforms over the course of the film from fresh-faced and brunette to jet black hair, piled hair with hairspray, adorned with thick, dark eyeliner and a wardrobe curated entirely by her husband. Her style conceals who she truly is, traps her. It isn’t until she decides to chart her own path that she sheds this layer, that she finally breaks free.

Priscilla’s soundtrack is anachronistic and it works flawlessly. Not being allowed to use any of Elvis’s music really works to the film’s benefit. It highlights the complete absence of Elvis the star persona and allows us to get to know Elvis as a man, with all of the flaws that come with that. Coppola portrays Elvis and Priscilla’s relationship with a compassionate, yet firm hand. She balances tender, loving moments with moments of abuse and manipulation. She never lets you forget how easy it is to groom young girls, how normalized it is. The abuse is mundane and visceral. Every girl has had a guy tell her how mature she is for her age.

Priscilla’s second half is not quite as engaging as its first. The ending, while emotionally resonant, feels rushed. The film is, nevertheless, a complex portrait love and abuse that takes a woman who has been a footnote in someone else’s story and finally gives her the room, and the grace, to tell her own.

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