My lips pursed with glee as Sofia Coppola’s gorgeous “On the Rocks” spooled out.
My glee wasn’t over the fact that the film laments relationships that are on the fritz, nor that we’ve forgotten how to communicate with one another. Nor did they raise over Laura’s (Rashida Jones) blind insistence that nothing was wrong with her marriage to Dean (Marlon Wayans).
No. My glee was with the way Coppola’s eyes captured the detail to tell Laura’s story visually.
Everything has a polished look to it, representing the high society in which Laura and Dean live; their large windowed, brightly lit midtown Manhattan loft meaning a communal ground for the couple and their two children. No one, individual character within cinematographer Philippe Le Sourd’s frames, was squarely in the center. Yet, the composition of the images surrounding the characters, the richness of the woods in someone’s home, the pointed car drives at night, every scene has a purpose.
Coppola’s script effectively builds Laura into a numb state of denial over her life. The story is not as dramatic as is said here; Coppola uses the humor of injecting others’ experiences into her own, a cacophony of noise that only adds to her miserable existence.
Laura is not entirely unhappy. She’s taking care of the kids and the household while Dean globe-trots to take meetings for a startup he’s running. Yet, she would love to find the time to write her novel, something Dean asks her about always.
At a reception hosted by Dean’s company, Laura meets the “team,” including a beautiful Fiona (Jessica Henwick). Their introduction is aloof, distant as Laura begins to suspect there’s more to their relationship than a simple 9-5.
The ever-charming, sophisticated and impulsive Felix steps in. Bill Murray plays the over-charged Felix, Laura’s father, in an understated way that allows Felix to take control of a situation. There are several instances in the film where this happens, but none is more funnier when, after a stakeout, Felix and Laura are pulled over for running a red light. Felix immediately engages the cops, smoothly and calmly conversing with them and not only gets himself out of a ticket, but also gets them to give the red Sportster a push to catch the stalled-out clutch.
When Laura finally figures out that something must be going on, the fatherly Felix intervenes. Coppola doesn’t just let us off with Felix’s intervention; Murray’s understated performance perfectly matches the complex emotions running between father and daughter as they go on the prowl.
“On the Rocks” humorously makes the case why we need to stop feeling so trapped in our mundane lives, but to, more importantly, accept other peoples’ advice. It isn’t until you’re on a sandy beach somewhere, with a storm brewing overhead, arguing with a family member over who said what, when, that you realize the subtlety of a message better serves the common good than a solid ball pin hammer over the head.
Now, back to the pursing of the lips mentioned at the beginning of this review, sure, the beautiful cinematography, the fantastic performances, and the witty story all make for an exceptional film.
My lips are finally and fully pursed as I put the immortal words of Neil Diamond in my head:
“Love on the rocks
Ain’t no surprise
Just pour me a drink and I’ll tell you some lies
Got nothin’ to lose so you just sing the blues
All the time.”
“On the Rocks” is an Apple Original Films and A24 release and will be available in select theatres on October 2nd and Apple TV+ starting Friday, October 23rd.
- On the Rocks