ON THE ROCKS – NYFF REVIEW

By Avi Saks

To the typical outsider, On the Rocks, the latest film from Sofia Coppola, could easily be dismissed as a little trite; yet it is still a very charming and pleasant late-summer fare.  

On the Rocks follows budding writer Laura (Rashida Jones). She has a sneaking suspicion her husband, Dean (Marlon Wayans), may not be as caught up in his new and cushiony tech start-up job as he suggests and might be having an affair with one of his co-workers.  She enlists her charming father, Felix (Bill Murray), who’s a constellation of socially regressive and toxic male traits, to help follow on her sneaking hunch.  What follows is a fun little 90-minute father-daughter escapade.  It sounds very been there, done that, but this film is elevated distinctively in the concentrated hands of Sofia Coppola. She turns a frivolous plot into something crushingly intimate and personal. Coppola delivers her signature feminine and ethereal directorial style, and its a very welcome return to form after 2017’s The Beguiled. It primarily comes down to the brilliant performances by both Murray and Jones. The reflexive and self-aware themes of love, gender, toxic masculinity, male influence, and societal wealth could ring obnoxiously in the wrong director’s hands. Yet, Sofia Coppola is no such director. She packages them so unashamedly, and it lands very satisfyingly.

Murray gives one of his best performances ever.  To the point that it almost feels like a swan song for him.  Every scene he is in, he brings his trademark dry wit and sarcasm, and you cannot help but smile.  It is an excellent juxtaposition to Jones, who plays the movie as fed up and emotionally wounded, while frequently at odds with her father’s domineering and cavalier-like presence. You get her exhaustion and why she does not like her father anymore.  Yet, once both characters regain trust and soften up by the end to a very sobering quality. When Murray has an emotionally powerful monologue near the end of the movie, you feel a mixture of hatred for him but, at the same time, a shade of pity.  You get the sense that he has a lot of regrets throughout his life. 

Jenny Slate, while only in the movie for a few scenes and about a minute per set location, still manages to stand out and steals the show. She is the familial escapism Laura yearns for. 

Overall, even though I figured out early on where the movie was heading,  I cannot say I was disappointed thanks to Sofia Coppola’s deliberate design. On the Rocks portrays the feeling of worthlessness to a tee.  How it may feel to think you are at fault in a relationship, whether it be founded or just paranoia.  I would recommend this movie when it comes to theaters on October 2nd, followed by its release on Apple TV+ on October 23rd

Rating: B+

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