Sofia Coppola’s “On the Rocks” is a quiet exploration of marriage, family and growth. It follows Laura (Rashida Jones, “Parks and Recreation”), a woman who suspects that her husband, Dean (Marlon Wayans, “White Chicks”), is cheating on her. With the help of her dad, Felix (Bill Murray, “Lost in Translation”), she begins to investigate Dean’s whereabouts in order to confirm her suspicions.
Bill Murray plays a silly and charming Felix, a man who flirts with most of the women he interacts with. When Felix takes Laura out for lunch one day, viewers find out that Felix was unfaithful to Laura’s mom. This history creates an interesting dynamic. He is, unsurprisingly, angry to hear that Dean might be cheating on his daughter, but knowing his past makes his character seem hypocritical. In addition, Felix displays casual sexism several times throughout the movie, saying things like “A woman is at her most beautiful between the ages of 35 and 39.” Still, in later scenes that touch on Laura’s parents’ relationship, the sense of grief and regret present allows Felix to still be an empathetic character. Also, Bill Murray is his usual silly self, so that helps too.
While some aspects of this story feel familiar, the use of the father-daughter relationship frames this movie in a different light. There is more to this story than Laura’s suspicions of her husband. While some of the things Felix does for Laura might be considered extreme (such as having her husband followed), it shows the love he has for her. He just wants to protect his daughter. Learning about his past affairs puts Laura’s anxieties into perspective. She’s worried about her husband cheating on her, but also doesn’t want to be too suspicious of him, which makes sense when considering her parents’ past. She doesn’t want her dad to be right, but she can’t help but fear the worst.
Rashida Jones is real and relatable as Laura. There is a calmness in her performance that creates an interesting contrast to the anxieties she feels. She’s balancing her work as a writer, being a caring mother to her two daughters and feeling isolated from her husband. Jones treats all of these responsibilities with compassion, and portrays a complex and endearing character.
“On the Rocks” is quiet but meaningful, and feels different from many of Sofia Coppola’s previous films. While its hazy scenes of New York are reminiscent of those of Tokyo in “Lost in Translation,” there is a faster rhythm. Jenny Slate (“Obvious Child”) makes several appearances as a mom at Laura’s daughter’s school, and everytime she appears she seems to be distressed about something. Her fast-paced monologues received by an unresponsive Laura provide comedy and a lightness that gives this movie a different feeling. Along with Slate’s appearances, the soundtrack is fun and jazzy, and plays with the film’s moodiness.
With a refreshing ending, “On the Rocks” shows a lot of growth in Laura, Felix and Dean, both as individuals as well as in their relationships with each other. The story is impactful in its calmness. It’s an ordinary premise in many ways but all aspects of it are treated with care. It manages to feel distinct and should not be overlooked.
Daily Arts Writer Judith Lawrence can be reached at email@example.com.