By Laurie Coker
Sofia Coppola’s On the Rocks, like her Lost in Translation, is a slow but entertaining burn playing out as a satisfying analysis of relationships. Her stars Rashida Jones and Bill Murray offer realistic and witty portrayals as father and daughter maneuvering very different lives. Coppola, as she did with her freshman effort so many years ago creates a rich and appealing escape into the lives of others.
Jones plays Laura, an aspiring writer living happily in Los Angeles with husband Dean (Marlon Wayans) and their two kids. Their tranquil lives begin to unravel when Laura’s father, Felix (Murray) fuels doubt grown from Dean’s slightly off behavior and the surprise of finding another woman’s toiletries in his suitcase. In her eyes, he’s been spending a questionable amount of time with his pretty coworker Fiona, so when another trip comes up causing Dean to miss Laura’s birthday, Felix encourages mistrust and uncertainty in his daughter. Laura, whose father is a bit of a letch, provides pointed pictures of possible infidelity -verbally and in actual photographs – and showers Laura with thoughtful gifts of theories about what Dean is doing, even providing private investigators and crazy stakeouts.
Murry has always been a little bit creepy in his character choices and that holds true with Felix, but his wry humor here drives the story along in a clever and witty way. Jones makes for a wonderful co-star and their chemistry is notable. There is a great deal of transparency in Coppola’s story, but watching this pair interact pleases and subtle character nuances show through. She relies on, and rightfully so, a solid soundtrack to set the tone throughout. On the Rocks – and by the way, the drinks in the film rarely are – touches on some sensitive subjects and does so with unexpected and mature humor. Laura’s relationship with Felix is far more interesting than hers and Dean’s. Ultimately, it is Laura’s life where Coppola’s focus lays and while the men in her life cause notable ripples, this is her story and herexperiences become ours. On the Rocks isn’t a rom-com but it is about love and emotional connections. It is about a woman’s need to resolve her issues with her father before she can gain full personal independence in her adult life. It earns a B+ in the grade book. On the Rocks airs on AppleTV. Bravo to Coppola.