November 8, 2023
WRITTEN BY: ADRIANO
With Priscilla currently in theaters, I wanted to take the opportunity to talk about one of my all-time favourite filmmakers, Sofia Coppola. The daughter of legendary filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola, she has carved herself a distinguished niche in the indie scene, known for her restrained examinations of many subjects, but mostly womanhood and fame. While her films often require patience, she always offers something beneath the surface that rewards patient viewers. And while her work has ascended the indie ladder in terms of prominence, she remains committed to her low-budget and thorough roots.
With that in mind, continue reading for my account of Sofia Coppola’s filmography, ranked...
8. ON THE ROCKS (2020)
Admittedly, On the Rocks has never been my favourite film of Coppola’s. While it’s far from a bad film, it’s the rare time her restrained nature holds the film back, as it prevents the film from reaching the dramatic peaks it's aiming for. That all said, Rashida Jones and Bill Murray (mostly Murray) make even the most tiresome moments watchable. Like most of Coppola’s work, the strengths lie in the writing, where her examination of the trauma that can come from one’s parents elicits strong emotions in a way that never undercuts the almost slapsticky sitcom nature of the film.
7. THE BEGUILED (2017)
Coppola going the gothic route is something that enticed me almost instantly with The Beguiled. She effectively uses her stacked ensemble (Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst, and Elle Fanning) to elevate a film whose aesthetic alone is enough to draw in anyone not completely on board with the rather challenging subject matter. Coppola herself has pushed back against the idea that The Beguiled is about female empowerment, and the film opts for an honest portrayal of women’s desires in a new take on the source material. While it doesn’t shy away from Coppola’s usual filmmaking style, there’s a genuine argument to be made that this is her boldest film yet.
6. THE BLING RING (2013)
Infatuation with fame is Coppola’s next target, and The Bling Ring is a vastly underrated crime dramedy that sees an interesting true story turned into a stylized yet earnest coming-of-age film. The whole ensemble is excellent (this might be Emma Watson’s best performance), and the movie is properly funny and exciting when it needs to be. However, it’s the Coppola touch that sets the film apart. The isolation these teens feel, as well as the feeling that they’re too small for the ambitions they want to conquer, is properly explored as the morality of their actions becomes increasingly more questionable. This is one of Coppola's more mixed-reviewed films, with some critics taking issue with the morally ambiguous way in which the subjects are handled. On one hand, I can understand that, but I'd argue the film emotionally justifies them while simultaneously not giving them a pass, which shows the strength of Coppola's nuanced writing.
5. SOMEWHERE (2010)
Somewhere is admittedly Coppola’s most patient film. It’s unquestionably a slow burn that offers no easy answers to the themes she is asking its viewers to ponder. But it’s an extraordinarily rewarding viewing experience for anyone willing to explore the vast details of Coppola’s view of fame and parenthood. These themes are nothing new for Coppola, but the calm yet expressive way that they are explored in Somewhere offer something refreshing. While the film is yet another example of just how good of a writer she is, Coppola deserves more praise for her skills as a director here, as she paints a portrait of this father-daughter relationship (played lovingly by Stephen Dorff and Elle Fanning) with meditative ease and satisfying relief.
4. LOST IN TRANSLATION (2003)
I’m willing to admit that the nature of Coppola’s films doesn’t always make her films an easy recommendation. However, Lost in Translation is the exception. Not that Coppola compromises what makes her great, but Lost in Translation is a funny and deeply moving film that features a Bill Murray performance in which he shows a side of himself that had never been explored before. Coppola being raised in the limelight seemingly has affected her, and it’s glaringly apparent here as we see an actor go through a midlife crisis with honest pathos complemented by a lighter touch to offset the hardship. The film that won Coppola her first Oscar (…so far) has a lot happening under the surface that can be explored, but even if you don’t want to take that plunge, there is a perfectly endearing rom-com that anyone can enjoy.
3. PRISCILLA (2023)
I’ve only seen Priscilla once, and I can already write a whole article about the many nuances of Cailee Spaeny’s performance alone. Through the guise of telling the story of Elvis (Jacob Elordi) and Priscilla Presley (Spaeny), Coppola paints an almost fairytale-like portrait of the flame of young love that feels judgment-free yet honest about the central relationship. What makes Priscilla so special, though, is when Coppola begins to examine when that flame goes out. The loss of innocence on display is powerful, even without the historical context. Such an approach to a famously documented relationship needed a deft hand, and thankfully, Coppola was more than up to the task. I have so much I want to say about this film since it's still fresh in my mind, but I'll stop there for now.
2. THE VIRGIN SUICIDES (1999)
Coppola’s first film, The Virgin Suicides, is one hell of a film on which to begin a filmmaking career. With an almost dreamy eeriness, The Virgin Suicides’ examination of teen angst and adolescence, specifically in women, remains one of her most compelling works, and it set the bar for how she would continue to approach filmmaking for the rest of her career up to this point. While certain dark subjects are explored (the movie is called The Virgin Suicides, after all), the movie never teeters into melodramatic territory, remaining lucid while taking the subjects as seriously as necessary. It’s one of the most impressive and daring debuts I've ever seen, and it set a high bar for Coppola's career going forward.
1. MARIE ANTOINETTE (2006)
I know Rotten Tomatoes is not the end-all and be-all, but I need a serious and detailed explanation as to how Marie Antoinette has a 58% critic score and a 56% audience score. If you want a better example of the hold that Coppola can have over her subjects, look no further than this underrated gem. Even aside from the beautiful aesthetics and set designs that are both somehow period-accurate and modern all at once, Coppola infuses her distinct interpretation of the titular character with a delightfully anachronistic soundtrack. And as punk rock as this movie can be, it's Coppola's view of how isolating being a woman can be, especially when the whole world is looking at you, that sets it apart from being just another stylish biopic. It's one of the many reasons that Coppola's filmography is so special, and I hope that one day, this movie will be looked upon more favourably.