October 2nd, 2020
MOVIE: ON THE ROCKS
STARRING: RASHIDA JONES; BILL MURRAY; MARLON WAYANS; JENNY SLATE
DIRECTED BY: SOFIA COPPOLA
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 3 ½ STARS (Out of 4)
When I watch a Sofia Coppola movie, I feel the Hollywood royalty stars lining up and truly blessing us with something special. That’s not to say that On the Rocks is the director’s best work, it might even be her weakest effort, but even saying that, this is another delightful and more mature effort from the Oscar winner. And she’s reunited with Bill Murray, long after their stellar work in Lost in Translation, and working with lead actor Rashida Jones who has more in common with Coppola than anyone could imagine. On the Rocks is a light drama, about Laura (Jones) and her father Felix (Bill Murrary), bonding together over the fears that her husband might be having an affair; But what is discovered is more about self and family relationships that never came to light.
It’s important to understand the history of films that Soffia Coppola has made, and obviously she speaks to what she knows, and that is the relationship between a daughter and her father. When your father is one of the most successful directors of all time, there is a different life ahead of you, and it’s been dissected in movies such as Somewhere, The Bling Ring, and Marie Antoinette, but On the Rocks is the most on the nose approach. The character of Laura is a writer, a mother of two, and her husband Dean (Marlon Wayans) is a successful businessman in tech. One night, when he returns home from a business trip, he kisses his wife in his sleep, but gives a surprised look when he notices it’s her. Did he think he was in bed with someone else? The nugget of doubt is put into Laura’s head and that doubt grows more when her father speaks about it. He would no, he cheated on his ex-wife and can’t stay monogamous to save his life.
The praise that I have for On the Rocks is a collection of things, adding up to another fantastic movie from Coppola. Her writing is often perfect. The dialogue sounds authentic, where not a single line is spoken with flaw, no matter who is saying it, making each scene feel like a crisp capturing of time. Not to mention, Coppola and cinematographer Philippe Le Sourd (whom she also worked with on The Beguiled) do a pristine job of capturing New York city. This is New York romance, with long takes of walks in the Manhattan neighborhood, gorgeous restaurants, including Bemelmans Bar at The Carlyle Hotel, and exquisite views of the New York architecture.
Then there is Bill Murray, an actor that could entertain us by reading the phone book. Here, Murray is in rare form, witty with his view of the situation, loving in his efforts to be the parent in the moment that he’s supposed to be, and incredibly flawed beneath the surface. A scene where Felix picks up Laura, in an old fashioned red convertible car, all to spy on Dean’s business dinner, he comes equipped with sunglasses, a What About Bob? bucket hat, caviar and crackers. Every moment for Felix is a moment of class or an opportunity to suck the venom out of life. When Felix is pulled over for speeding, it’s no surprise that he’s able to chum with one of New York’s finest, and even get a friendly push to get the old car moving. It’s Bill Murray at his coolest, but within the story, Laura doesn’t need Bill Murray, she needs a father to be honest with her. That might not be what is happening here.
Although On the Rocks is not as psychologically complex as The Virgin Suicides or as entertaining as The Beguiled, it’s a delightful and quietly accomplished film. Sofia Coppola is one of our greatest directors working today, especially considering that I am yet to dislike any of her seven feature films. On the Rocks is a sure footed production, involving mystery and humor, within the conflicts of love and family. The chemistry between Murray, Jones, and Coppola is flawless. There’s plenty of joy to go around and it’s incredibly cool…Keep it On the Rocks.
ON THE ROCKS IS AN APPLE ORIGINAL FILMS AND A24 RELEASE. SEE IT PLAYING AT SELECT THEATERS AND THE LANDMARK CENTURY THEATER FRIDAY OCTOBER 2ND AND AVAILABLE ON APPLETV+ ON OCTOBER 23RD.
3 ½ STARS
Written by: Leo Brady