NYFF REVIEW: ON THE ROCKS (2020)

Rashida Jones and Bill Murray in Sofia Coppola’s ‘On the Rocks’
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“Can you just act a little less excited about this? Because this is my life, and it might be falling apart.”

Sofia Coppola’s talents as a director may come from the time spent with her father on film sets. But to be honest, she may find it tiring to constantly climb out from underneath the shadow of her father’s award-winning films. So what is under that image of their father/daughter relationship? We may never know, nor do we have the right to know about their relationship. However, with Coppola’s newest project, On the Rocks, it’s hard not to wonder what looming traits of her own relationship with her father come together in this brilliant film.

Laura (Rashida Jones) is a writer, juggling both her career and motherhood. She lives with her husband, Dean (Marlon Wayans) and their two children, in what looks to be a picturesque life. After a work trip, Laura begins to think that her husband is having an affair with his assistant. She waves it off as just her own insecurities, but the more questionable things he does, the more her mind becomes enveloped by the thought of his intimacy with someone else. Enter: Laura’s Dad, Felix — a former gallerist with a troubled pass, not to mention his anti-monogamous characteristics. It’s a strange relationship as Laura and Felix, travel around the New York City landscapes, to try to catch Dean in the act — while exploring their own faults within their relationship.

There’s no doubt that every movie is almost better with Murray. This former Saturday Night Live comedian, turned full-time movie actor in the 80s with hits like Ghostbusters, Stripes, and Caddyshack — eventually having recent success with Wes Anderson’s films as well as some of Coppola’s recent projects. On the Rocks is no different from Murray’s recent films as he takes on the father role so well. His funny puns and mannerism lend itself to On the Rocks taking a more comedic route, with a storyline that can easily be straight laced and dramatic. Jones portrays a more vulnerable side in the film as Laura is one of those introverted characters — one that may not be able to turn on the charm as easy as some people. Jones is so beautifully simplistic, and often one of the most relatable characters to be seen in a recent film. Laura is portrayed in such a way that you honestly feel like you are merely a fly on the wall looking into her world. But Laura and Felix are polar opposites in how they interact with the world. This father/daughter relationship is complex, and has its troubles, but it’s also a sweet and loving one. But it’s the chemistry between Jones and Murray that really takes the father/daughter relationship into a whole new direction. Hitting the complexities of the relationship even more, because of the way Jones and Murray interact with each other.

There may be a few things that I would have changed about the storylines — questions I would have preferred to have been answered. But for the most part, Coppola hits it out of the park. Her writing is gorgeous and her direction makes it feel like we are getting to know some old friends. On the Rocks may not be as piercing as Coppola’s previous works, but for that very reason, it makes it enjoyable. From the start of the film, you have a huge connection to these characters, as if Coppola herself has brought you into the fold. It’s not easy to be so invested in the people you see on screen. And because of that, On the Rocks shows how talented a writer, and director, Coppola is.

On the Rocks

Written and Directed by: Sofia Coppola

Starring: Rashida Jones, Marlon Wayans, Jenny Slate, and Bill Murray

Rating: