Many, if not most, of us were left questioning our own reality when we watched the trailer for Kristen Stewart and James Pattinson’s upcoming romantic comedy, On the Rocks. We were immediately transported back to the 1990s – a decade that produced some of the most iconic love stories of all time.
The trailer opens with a handsome prince charming and an even more handsome ice skater walking towards a spectacular view. What follows is a series of courtship rituals performed for the amusement of the crowd. We are transported back to the ‘90s, when you couldn’t catch a flick without experiencing at least one rom-com. However, what makes On the Rocks stand out is that it presents a more mature take on romance. As the tagline boldly states: “It’s not all fun and games.”
Is On the Rocks a precursor to a new breed of ‘90s romcoms, or will this be yet another attempt to cash in on the lucrative nostalgia market? Let’s examine the evidence.
The trailer is a masterclass in movie magic. Director James Pattinson stages a series of shots that transport us back to the golden era of Hollywood cinema. We watch as a hand reaches past the camera to place a glowing golden envelope in Kristen Stewart’s hand. The camera pulls back to reveal that this is the hand of an unseen figure – presumably the Prince Charming we have come to know and love. Moments later, we see her skating towards the camera, only to be framed in the same shot as she opens the envelope and smiles with delight. The music is swelling, and we know immediately that this is going to be a feel-good tale. And then the trailer ends, the music fades and we are left wondering: is this for real?
What Is This Film Really About?
In the trailer, we are given only the briefest of introductions to the central couple. We learn that Kristen Stewart is a “sparkling wine” who skates the “winter white” and that James Pattinson is a “scotch” who likes to cook “Argentinean beef.”
These details are important because they give us the barest glimpse into the film’s central relationship. However, it is the way that James Pattinson’s and Kristen Stewart’s characters interact with one another that defines this film. Their rapport is natural and relaxed, as if they have known each other for years. As with all great romcoms, we are immediately drawn into their tale and want to see it develop.
Why Does It Exist In Its Present Form?
The film’s central couple are presented as perfectly suited for one another. Despite their differences in age – as established in the trailer – they clearly see the world through similar lenses. Their mutual respect is clear for all to see.
However, it is the director’s impeccable eye for set design that truly sells this story. The trailer highlights the importance of the “scotch” in James Pattinson’s life, as he cooks and drinks his way through the winter. The shots of his cosy home, nestled in the Scottish Highlands, are beautifully composed and truly spectacular. The trailer also makes great use of natural light, with only the occasional studio light illuminating the central characters’ faces. It is a masterclass in evoking the ‘90s without resorting to cheap tricks like makeup and filters.
The ‘90s Was A Golden Era For Romcoms
It is fair to say that the ‘90s produced some of the greatest romcoms of all time, so it is no surprise that Pattinson would want to cash in on this nostalgia and try and top what came before. However, in doing so, he has crafted something different and refreshing. The trailer for On the Rocks highlights the maturity of its central relationship, even as it apes some of the defining traits of a ‘90s romcom.
There are several differences between On the Rocks and its ‘90s counterparts. The most obvious is that, by the time you read this, the cast of On the Rocks will have been announced and the film will have premiered. In addition to this, it is worth noting that the trailers for On the Rocks and Its accompaniment, a book entitled The Art of Oddly Normal, feature very different opening scenes. The original trailer for On the Rocks opens with a shot of a roaring fire and a beautifully-wrapped romantic gift. It is a moment of pure joy and a wonderful ode to traditional romance. These are the kinds of details that give the film its heart and soul.
This Is A Different Kind Of Romance
This is where things start to get interesting. While most of the ‘90s romcoms follow the archetypal pattern of the “boy meets girl, story of love and redemption”, On the Rocks plays with this formula in order to tell a more nuanced story. The central couple are not immediately drawn to one another. In fact, they initially have nothing in common. This provides the audience with some wonderful comedic value as we watch events unfold that are simply meant to show how well matched these two seemingly incompatible people are for one another. The “boy meets girl” portion of the film is there to set up the tension and eventual reconciliation that we know and love.
Nostalgia Is A Powerful Motive
The trailer for On the Rocks wisely highlights the nostalgic pull of the ‘90s. Pattinson opts to include several shots of what were, at the time, futuristic technology. We see characters pull up messages on their mobile phones, watch as websites are accessed on dial-up modems and experience life through the blurry screen of a CRT television set.
This nostalgia is not solely targeted at the decade itself, but extends to all things associated with it, from films to music, fashion and, of course, romance.
While we as an audience have grown accustomed to the trend of films set in the present day, it seems that Hollywood is taking a leaf out of Stephen King’s Amber Chronicles, and setting its romcoms in the past. This can be seen in Bridget Jones’s Diary, and more recently, in The Gucci Collection, where Dior shows us a glamorous present day world being interrupted by black holes that swallow the characters whole.
What Does It Say About The Present?
There are a few other interesting things we can take away from the trailer for On the Rocks. First off, it is clear that this is meant to be a light hearted affair. Despite its title, the film is anything but normal and is, in fact, anything but typical. This is further confirmed by the inclusion of several scenes that parody famous films and their tropes. It is highly unlikely that a film with this level of parody would receive an R rating nowadays. There is also the suggestion that this is a film that might be a love letter to the audience that watches it.
It is clear that James Pattinson wants to give this generation of romantic comedies a miss. With its emphasis on humor and relatability, On the Rocks could well become the romcom to end all romcoms. What is more, considering its strong cast and positive critical response so far, it could well become one of the most beloved films of this decade.