The 400-Word Review: On the Rocks
By Sean Collier
October 24, 2020
For director Sofia Coppola, “On the Rocks” is a remarkably restrained and straightforward movie. It is quiet, direct and sincere. It has moments of relatable humor and genuine emotion. In its gentle approach, it retains the depth of feeling she has brought to films such as “Lost in Translation” and “The Beguiled.”
Those qualities — the emotional ones, to be plain — seem to be the core of Coppola’s filmmaking. That’s a good thing; those clear, stirring notes are her greatest strength. What “On the Rocks” lacks is the boisterous style of films like “The Bling Ring” or “Marie Antoinette.” Without visual ambition, the film is less memorable than those that came before it.
It’s like an expertly made basic cocktail: It may be much better than your average drink, but it’s essentially the same thing. And you probably won’t remember ordering it.
That’s a lot of analysis off the top, so to get to the story: Laura (Rashida Jones) isn’t seeing much of her husband, Dean (Marlon Wayans), a budding CEO with a vague tech company. While she’s unwittingly thrust into keeping their family going — they have two small and unobtrusive children — he’s on near-constant business travel.
It’s a lifestyle she watched growing up, as her own father, Felix (Bill Murray), was something of a jet-setter. Her parents divorced after Felix was caught cheating; now, she suspects that Dean may be unfaithful, and she goes to her father for some combination of resolution and infidelity expertise.
“On the Rocks” is at its strongest when Murray and Jones are allowed to inhabit this space. Father and daughter alternately enjoy the odd-couple rhythms of one another’s company — he charms everyone in sight while she seems to be fighting an anxiety flare-up in most scenarios — and confront each other with uncomfortable truths. There are moments between them that are perfect.
That’s not to say “On the Rocks” sticks the landing; while the resolution is refreshing in one regard, Laura shoves a lot of herself aside to make it to the credits. For a movie in which she is nominally the main character, Coppola seems more interested in revisiting her admittedly dynamic work with Murray; while “Lost in Translation,” undoubtedly Coppola’s classic, gets more out of its star, he has plenty to offer here. That such gifts come at the expense of the protagonist is an unfortunate side effect.
My Rating: 7/10
“On the Rocks” is streaming now on Apple TV+.