Movie Review: On the Rocks
On the Rocks is about a writer, Laura, who is in a rut creatively. She has a second full time job as a mother to two girls and her husband, Dean, is often away on business. After a weird interaction with Dean, Laura seeks help from close friends and family to suss out if Dean may be having an affair. Yet, there's only one person who would know for sure and that's her philandering father, Felix. Laura and Felix get lost in their own narrative as they chase down leads in an effort to find the truth. The film stars Rashida Jones, Bill Murray, Marlon Wayans, Jessica Henwick, Liyanna Muscat, Alexandra and Anna Reimer, Barbara Bain, Alva Chinn, Juliana Canfield, and Jenny Slate. The film is written and directed by Sofia Coppola. The film is exclusive to Apple TV+.
I appreciate films about loneliness. I appreciate even more Sofia Coppola's films about loneliness because she really understands the idea of being surrounded by people, but feeling utterly alone. In On the Rocks, she's crafted two characters who deal with their loneliness in different ways. Laura, the writer who does everything, but writing as all writers do, sinks into herself. She builds theories, stories, and possibilities in her head, but she feels she has so much to do that she doesn't take enough time to really think things through. That's why she needs a foil in Felix.
Felix is the type of character who lives a life that looks easy. This character is so intriguing because he knows everyone and can charm anyone. He's the embodiment of privilege. In one scene he talks himself out of a reckless driving citation because he guesses at the police officer's lineage. He overwhelms the officer with charm telling him stories about his father and grandfather. Yet, there's that underlying need for that kind of connection because it makes him feel less alone than he is.
I like that Felix and Laura, as father and daughter, subtly recognize that need in each other for companionship. Despite their issues, the two of them have a great need for each other. Felix especially feels as if he's searching for something. Not forgiveness necessarily, but for a sense of acceptance. He doesn't regret his past, but he feels as if he can start over now that his children are adults and he can interact with them on an almost peer level. Laura needs for someone to be more than a casual hello, goodbye type of friend.
On that note, there is a terrifically funny runner with Jenny Slate's character Vanessa. Vanessa and Laura drop their kids off at the same school and while the other mothers just give the casual, non-committal, "Let's get coffee," Vanessa launches into a full story. Every time Laura is at the school for a transition, Vanessa is there with another piece to the puzzle. It's a terrific palate cleanser between scenes.
Despite these incredible interludes, what I always find I struggle with in Coppola's work is that everything seems muted. The dramatic moments are dramatic. The funny moments are funny. Yet, the punctuation, the punch that makes me really feel it, is just a little weak. I often find myself in the really dramatic scenes wondering, "Was that it?" because it feels like they fizzle out far too quickly.
I do love what Bill Murray's doing in this film. He's found an excellent partner in Sofia Coppola. Though, Rashida Jones really steals the show. She's such a great, wry, comedic presence, but she really sells the scenes of introspection as well. Her performance feels lived in like she's had these kinds of relationships before. I like her so much because of her naturalism and charm.
I terrifically enjoyed this movie. There's a lot to love in the relational aspects as well as the kind of father daughter caper that evolves out of Laura's suspicions. Sofia Coppola has a subtle hand to her directing and an incredible wit with her words. Her best is on full display here. Check this one out if you have the chance.