Written by: Sofia Coppola
Starring: Bill Murray, Rashida Jones, Marlon Wayans, Jessica Hardwick, Jenny Slate
With any way of living, routines always find their way of taking hold because of the consistency and reliability it produces. While it provides a level of security, it does not beget much excitement, which allows minds to wander and doubt to settle in. With On the Rocks, Sofia Coppola once again looks at the world of isolation and how it can have an adverse effect on an insecure woman, and then it adds a nice little sprinkle of Bill Murray right on top.
Mother of two and with a busy husband starting his own company, Laura (Rashida Jones) begins to suspect her partner may be cheating on her. With different items and events pushing her to believe, things get stirred when her father Felix (Bill Murray) vows to help her get to the bottom of this.
Many can relate to the struggles of Laura in this story, even if they do not live the lavish lifestyle she has attained. She has the routine of getting her kids ready for school, cannot get any writing done, and seemingly does not have time to be intimate with her husband. She finds herself in a rut in multiple ways, which makes the thought of her husband cheating on her so much more damaging. Dean (Marlon Wayans) has begun an exciting adventure launching this new company, which has him flying out to London and other places. One weird interaction between them with a sleepy Dean plants the seed of infidelity, which opens up her eyes completely.
Searching for proof of this infidelity finds On the Rocks working at its highest level narratively because it displays situations where things can get interpreted as him certainly cheating or an easily explainable situation. The first incident can be interpreted in many ways but when Laura unpacks Dean’s bags from recent travel, she finds a woman’s bag of toiletries, which gets explained away but still lingers as proof. This happens on multiple occasions and while the film delivers the answer everyone looks for, the story finds its most interesting beats in how the potential of infidelity makes Laura feel about herself. This is where Felix comes in and brings his burst of suave energy.
Bill Murray put in probably his greatest performance in Lost in Translation, also made by Sofia Coppola so their reunion came with some high expectations to see what yet another collaboration between the two could yield. It certainly did not disappoint, as Murray captures a level of misogyny and likeability with this character to make him someone people can recognize in their own lives. He lives a playboy lifestyle of sorts and always seems to be on to some new adventure, which this search for infidelity becomes with his daughter. His impact on the story gets felt in how he continues to push Laura towards pursuing this search even with the evidence not being very substantive at times. Additionally, it serves as a time for them to bond in a way they have not done for many years. The whole idea of exasperation about infidelity becomes increasingly relevant for the two because Felix left Laura’s mother through this form of betrayal and he has not been able to forget it. He chalks it up to the natural male tendencies to essentially spread their seed. This character could have been easily hated, but Murray turns up the charm.
Pleasant would be the operative word to describe On the Rocks as it does not contain large sweeping moments and messy fights between the characters. It simply goes through the story in its stylish manner with people that have no real bigger issues other than these relational ones. Felix and Laura have lunches and dinners at elite and expensive places because they can afford it. They have conversations about abstract ideas but it never loses its focus on being a story about a father and his daughter bonding over a potentially stressful life event. Nothing exciting happens, but the pleasantness remains throughout, which makes this a nice casual watch one can have if they want to see a competently made smooth movie.
As a Sofia Coppola feature, it feels weirdly disappointing because she typically injects plenty of style into her movies in covering these larger-than-life characters. She takes a more restrained approach with On the Rocks, as these may be the most normal characters she has ever brought to life on screen. The directing remains assured but no moments really stick out that let you know this was directed by Sofia strangely enough. The only disappointment comes from expecting something more groundbreaking with what she has shown in the past but she ultimately delivers a perfectly enjoyable little feature.