On the Rocks
On the Rocks is light-hearted and sweet, capturing an energetic relationship between a daughter and her father thanks to the on-screen chemistry between Bill Murray and Rashida Jones. Writer/director Sofia Coppola keeps things simple, delivering a story that feels familiar, yet benefits from its lived-in approach.
The Bling Ring and Lost in Translation writer/director Sofia Coppola returns behind-the-lens with On the Rocks, an Apple TV+ exclusive starring Bill Murray and Rashida Jones. On the Rocks is somewhat light-hearted considering the nature of the story, yet Coppola uses that and the chemistry between Jones and Murray to her advantage, telling a story that feels familiar and somewhat safe, yet engaging all the same.
Laura (Rashida Jones) is a busy mother, a loving wife and a determined writer. She’s trying to squeeze all of this into one body, struggling to stay afloat (or awake) long enough to get some pages done on the book that she’s been writing. Her mind is mostly occupied with her kids, but also her busy husband (Marlon Wayans) that she feels is growing more distant with each new day.
This introduces the idea into Laura’s brain that her husband Dean might be cheating on her, which makes her question her own self-worth as she tries to understand the reasoning behind throwing away a happy marriage and a life with their kids over something as simple with sleeping with his assistant.
This drives Laura mad, which naturally brings her to her outgoing playboy father Felix (Bill Murray). Her dad has had his own troubles with affairs, cheating on Laura’s mom with another woman once upon a time and now continuing to be drawn to any female willing to give him five seconds of the spotlight.
Felix is loud and almost always draws attention to himself, while Laura is quiet and contained, usually caught listening to fellow parents ramble about their current relationship status while slowly nodding her head, hoping something can draw her away from this never-ending nonsense.
This creates the groundwork for On the Rocks, which is ultimately a story of bonding between a daughter and her dad as they try to see if her husband is actually cheating on her or simply busy with work.
Writer/director Sofia Coppola is usually dynamite when it comes to complex relationships between father and daughter or really any two people. She’s great at highlighting damaged people that manage to find other damaged people to associate themselves with.
This was true in Lost in Translation and Somewhere and now again in On the Rocks.
I can see people quietly dismissing this film because it does feel very similar to other films of Coppola’s and yet that might be why this one works so well. It takes a very familiar shell of a story and wraps with two great actors (Jones and Murray) that have fantastic chemistry.
Their relationship feels real and feels lived-in. Not in your typical fashion, but in a way that highlights their many differences, yet still gives them a reason to continue coming back together to spend time with each other, despite their somewhat rocky past and current predicament.
Rashida Jones‘ Laura is your trademark over-worked mom/wife that is facing her own self-worth issues that is now being projected on a possible cheating husband that is clearly so busy and successful, meanwhile she can’t even write one single page for her new book if her life depended on it.
Jones gives a performance that captures that inner-turmoil and self-doubt without ever soaking in it for too long. Laura never feels like she’s complaining or going crazy, despite having every reason to feel those ways or project those feelings.
Meanwhile, Bill Murray gives the character of Felix an eccentric vibe that is very much a product of Murray, yet still emotional and sincere when the time calls for it. Watching Felix constantly make small talk with random strangers is a delight and a true power of Murray as an actor and a genuinely nice human being.
Bringing the two together makes for magic on screen, with Coppola capturing that compatible energy through the lens in a way that moves the film onto the next scene organically.
This is definitely the most relaxed Sofia Coppola film and I mean that in the best of ways. On the Rocks feels more like an experience than it does a focused film with a structured plot. The narrative is clear, but it sort of drifts forward at its own pace, grabbing tiny bits of detail and information and translating that in such a calm manner. I know that sounds weird, especially for a film about a woman trying to determine if her husband is a cheating bastard or not, but it’ll all make sense once you watch it.
And you definitely should, because On the Rocks is the perfect dose of collected cinema that’s shot with care and voice. Coppola is speaking to us through her writing and directing, telling is that it’s OKAY to have doubts about our lives and that it’s OKAY to raise a hand and say that we are being over-worked, under-appreciated or just in need of a hug or a night out on the town for a couple drinks.
It speaks strongly on communication and trust and just how important these values are to any relationship.
It’s also a fascinating, yet down-played look at such a complex relationship between daughter and father as Laura’s clearly still trying to process the damage that her father did to her and her family, yet she still loves him dearly and enjoys spending time with him.
Love is tricky and requires sacrifice and most of all — love is hard and for those willing to put in the work and be patient. Nobody is perfect and nobody is asking any of us to be, but we do all deserve the truth and ultimately On the Rocks is about discovering that and learning that to be human is to be a collective ball of panic and frustration and insanity, but also love.
Sometimes we just need Bill Murray to show up in a bright red sports car promising a wild night on the town to get us through whatever current life issue is being thrown at our faces.