REVIEW: ‘On the Rocks’ is a great comeback for Coppola

On the rocks is a good way to order a margarita, and it’s also a phrase for when a relationship has issues. This movie is about the latter, although there are plenty of drinks featured.

Writer and director Sofia Coppola has returned with her first film since 2017’s “The Beguiled.” Her latest picture focuses on Laura (Rashida Jones), a woman who’s trying to overcome writer’s block while also raising her daughters.

Additionally, Laura is having some trouble communicating with her husband Dean (Marlon Wayans), as he’s often out of town for  business  trips. Laura’s father Felix (Bill Murray) sees this as suspicious, though. As a result, the two begin discussing whether or not there’s an affair going on.

“On the Rocks” is a real gem of a movie, offering viewers a lovely mix of style and substance. The movie is an enjoyable mystery ride that strongly explores many subjects.

As Laura and Felix try to determine whether or not an affair is taking place, Coppola’s rich script delves into aspects of a father-daughter relationship, a relationship between a husband and wife and the impacts of miscommunication. Coppola captures the drama of these matters with phenomenal dialogue and well placed injections of humor.

Thanks to Coppola’s strong writing and direction, the film also mostly remains an honest portrayal and doesn’t lean into melodramatic or exaggerated moments. This is especially true for the movie’s satisfying ending.

The major emotional core of the picture is the back and forth between Felix and Laura. On top of being an introspective into a how a father and daughter communicate as adults, their interactions are just downright fun and charming. Felix regularly rattling off random facts with Laura pushing back, all in a lighthearted way for the most part, is enjoyable.

Courtesy A24 and AppleTV

The performances here really make this a winner. Murray, for example, does his best work in years from start to finish. It’s a layered performance where on the surface, the character is behaving with charisma and confidence, but Murray clearly portrays an underlying feeling of regret that his relationship with his daughter isn’t better.

Jones, meanwhile, knocks it out of the park with a performance that is the perfect embodiment of the phrase “hope for the best, expect the worst.” She nicely portrays a conflicted woman with clear concerns. Whether the scene is comedic or dramatic, Jones is strong in it.

Credit also should go to Marlon Wayans. Most known for his comedic roles, Wayans does solid work, despite not having a ton of screen time.

“On the Rocks” is also a very stylish picture. There’s enjoyable music throughout and cinematographer Philippe le Sound beautifully captures New York City, especially the night life.

Visually, there’s a specific moment that’s really memorable. It’s where Felix and Laura are having a deep conversation at a lounge on the water, and the way the characters are put in frame with great color and lighting really helps set the scene.

“On the Rocks” does have a rather simple story, and it’s a bit too slow moving in some places. However, it’s a very well crafted film put together by a talented cast and crew. 4.75 out of 5.

Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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