On the Rocks

Oct 10, 2020

Good Murray and  Coppola. See it at Gateway and listen to John and Linda enjoy it on Friday Oct 16 It's Movie Time.

On the Rocks

Grade: B

Director: Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation)

Screenplay: Coppola

Cast: Bill Murray (Lost in Translation), Rashida Jones (Zoe)

Runtime: 1h 36m

Rating: R

By: John DeSando

Try as you might to find a better almost two-hander about the father-daughter dynamic, you’ll still might end up thinking Sofia Coppola’s On the Rocks is as good as it gets today. While Coppola explores the differences between heroine Laura (Rashida Jones) and playboy, art dealer dad, Felix (Bill Murray), Coppola also brings clarity to the pressures on modern women as they juggle motherhood and romance.

Murray is at his best with what one critic called his “deadpan anarchy” (remember his turn in Lost in Translation as an aging, engaging celebrity). Jones is a foil to perfection, bringing a tense but loving concern to Murray’s relaxed care. The thriller aspect, whether or not her husband, Dean (Marlon Wayans), is unfaithful, is a confection to make the comedy more edgy, but unnecessary given the layers of challenge in the father-daughter motif.

Speaking of which, it’s possible to see this film as a partial reconciliation of Coppola’s talent with her colossal director dad’s. I’d say she has done quite well given Francis’s considerable shadow.

Although Felix goes immediately into detective mode to search for clues to Dean’s infidelity (no one could know better than Felix on that subject), Laura is a reluctant partner hoping for Dean’s exoneration although the evidence in mounting. Coppola’s quiet exposition, lacking jolts and surprises, brings home to viewers the cultural hostilities tied to men’s infidelity, which Felix exemplifies during his conversations with Laura:  "The bangle is a reminder that women were once men's property.”

In a moment of unknowing candor, Felix comments on his growing deafness that reveals his male dominating mode: "I can hear everything fine except women's voices. I think it's the pitch.”

If you look for the vintage Murray charm, look no further than Felix’s rendition of Mexicali Rose at a resort—he fashions himself a crooner but really is just exercising his charm of indifference and self-absorption.

On the Rocks is a must see for Coppola devotees, for Murray worshipers, and for sane people searching for the answer to the men-women dynamic. At least for Laura, this ancient saying on an old tin plate I saw in an antique shop provides a brief answer: “I know what men like. I just don’t think they deserve it.”

See it at the Gateway Film Center.

John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at