A story of possible infidelity gets an anti-Hollywood spin in Sofia Coppola’s sophisticated dramedy On the Rocks.
Reuniting after their brief exchange in Coppola’s Christmas special, Rashida Jones and Bill Murray play father and daughter. Laura (Jones) is a content albeit exhausted New York mother who is burning the candle at both ends as she prepares to write a book. However, she can’t overcome her writer’s block. Laura’s creative juices could be stalled because she suspects her husband Dean (Marlon Wayans) is cheating on her with his work partner Fiona (Jessica Henwick). Upon hearing the allegations from his daughter, Laura’s dad Felix (Murray), a former Lothario who has yet to shake all of his sleaziness, wants to figure out what Dean is up to; he doesn’t want to see his daughter hurt, but he’s also kind of amused by how sloppy Dean’s sneakiness is. Begrudgingly, Laura agrees to stalk Dean.
Despite Felix’s dated opinions and his debatable charm, Murray’s on-brand aloofness allows him to get away with such a role; elevating this character from an un-PC putz to heartfelt comic relief (much like he did with his underrated role in St. Vincent). Rashida Jones is a great partner for Murray to build witty repertoire off of, but Jones is an important piece to this film as well. She carries her scenes very well, even when she’s being silent and judgemental with another parent who divulges too much information (Jenny Slate).
This type of story about characters sneaking around would usually be portrayed with big set pieces and reactions (2011’s The Dilemma), but Coppola plays everything a few notes lower than they should be. Miraculously, this doesn’t kill any energy but, instead, adds realism to the film. For instance, comedy is made when an on-route chase involving Laura and Felix tailing Dean’s cab is acted out with Felix’s out-of-shape, backfiring classic car that’s eventually pulled over by the police.
These low-key set-ups might be deemed as anti-climactic and a little too pat for movie goers, but this approach works when the viewer sets back, examines what Coppola was going for, and realizes how clever On the Rocks is.
On the Rocks is currently playing a limited engagement at select Cineplex theatres.
The film premieres on Apple TV+ on Friday, October 23.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie