On the Rocks
Cast: Bill Murray, Rashida Jones, Marlon Wayans
Director: Sofia Coppola
What happens when your life becomes so boring that the prospect of your husband cheating on you becomes the most exciting part of your day? What happens when the only person you can confide in, is your father, with whom you have some unspoken grievances and who usually gets on your nerves?
New York author and mother-of-two Laura spends most of her day taking care of her family, while her husband Dean (Wayans) is an entrepreneur who travels a lot for work. One day when he returns from a business trip, she senses something weird about him. She then finds a woman's toiletries in his bag. She has a nagging feeling that he's cheating on her. Her mother shrugs it off because her husband adores her and is a 'great guy', her father, however, empasises on the fact that Dean is 'just a man.'
Laura finds herself in a weird conundrum. She's close to unearthing something that could potentially uproot her life. She finds an ally in her father Felix (Murray), who is a flamboyant playboy who can sweet talk a policeman to avoid arrest. He, to put it mildly, isn't a feminist. He talks about historical significance of polygamy and the 'natural instincts' of men to cheat. He also cannot stop hitting on every woman he meets, be it his clients or his granddaughter's ballet teacher. She tolerates him mostly, but he loves his daughter fiercely, and cannot believe someone can be unfaithful to her. He convinces her to spy on her husband, and not just the usual snooping on his text messages but full on following him across the city in a disguise. Laura goes against her judgement and strings along.
The charm of Sofia Coppola's films does not lie in the plot, but in the storytelling and On the Rocks isn't different. It is a slow-burn, and rightfully so, because like an expensive gourmet meal, you need to savour the films slowly. It doesn't matter what is going to happen next, but in the little details, be it in a political statement made right before the US election or a really known face that pops in every now and then to establish the banality of first world problems.
When the film was announced and we found out that the filmmaker was reuniting with Bill Murray, we all knew we would be watching On the Rocks with Lost in Translation in our minds. Even when I tried so hard to not let the latter cloud my judgement, a big window and a wide shot with Jones and Murray sitting right in the middle of the frame filled my heart with sweet nostalgia.
Even when she's teasing the audience with similar elements as her previous work, she serves us something completely different from what we expect. In Lost in Translation, she treated her muse softly, she was young, had big dreams and relied on other people's company. Her treatment of Rashida Jones' character feels like a natural progression from that. It feels more real and rough around the edges. Kind of like Coppola herself grew up with this film.
Bill Murray is wonderful as the father who sees his past in his daughter's present and overcompensates. He is giving and restraint at the same time, like a proud man with a lot of guilt should be. Rashida Jones, who has hitherto been boxed as a sitcom actress, breaks the mould and runs with it. She carries the weight of this film quite easily and might not get the credit she deserves.
Nothing much happens in the film, and if that disappoints you, you're watching this film with the wrong lens. On the Rocks has a great aftertaste, and you find yourself thinking about it long after it's over. It makes you think about your own family, about how your parents' issues hamper your own life in ways you don't even realise. How when you catch yourself acting like one of your parents and cannot even believe it.
The film is also an amazing reminder to call your loved ones and tell them what you feel in your heart. It really doesn't matter if it's just anger. On the Rocks in now streaming on Apple TV+