On the Rocks Nov 10, 2020 21:45:11 GMT -5
Post by StevePulaski on Nov 10, 2020 21:45:11 GMT -5
On the Rocks (2020)
Directed by: Sofia Coppola
Directed by: Sofia Coppola
Rashida Jones and Bill Murray.
Sofia Coppola always seem to leave me perplexed in one way or another. Even her great films, The Bling Ring and The Virgin Suicides to name a few, leave me a bit lost in translation. Ordinarily, I blame it on the gauzy presentation and the heavy ambiguity, often muddying otherwise linear stories. On the Rocks isn't an exception in that regard, but it occasionally provides some low-key fun. The prickly chemistry between Bill Murray and Rashida Jones is enough to keep you amused, even if the film's conclusion feels rushed and thus the takeaway idea too ambiguous.
It all centers around Laura (Jones), a writer stuck in purgatory with two kids, a stalling marriage, and a deal for a book that's nowhere near complete. It's not so much that her marriage to the successful Dean (Marlon Wayans) is a nightmare, but it's stuck in that ugly drought where he works too much and her emotional and romantic needs are left by the wayside. One detail that sticks in Laura's craw is seeing how much time Dean is spending with his attractive assistant Fiona (Jessica Henwick), whose toiletry case suspiciously finds itself in Dean's suitcase after a business trip.
Reluctantly, Laura airs her grievances to her father, Felix (Murray), an old-school bloke with all the impeccable wit and charm of Humphrey Bogart in his heyday. Having cheated on Laura's mom many moons ago, and being the type to flirt with any attractive woman who happens to glance in his direction, Felix immediately assumes the worst is happening when Laura informs him of everything. This possible case of infidelity just so happens to be what Felix needs as his glory days have all but passed him. This kind of excitement is rare, after all. Over the coming days, he successfully ropes her into an amateur investigation in order to get to the bottom of Dean's recently elusive behavior.
The interpersonal banter between Murray and Jones is what you come to a film like On the Rocks for, and it's ultimately what makes you stick around. The two opposite personalities mesh nicely together, and Coppola finds no shortage of things for them to do. A marquee moment comes when Felix and Laura find themselves flying through the streets of New York in a vintage, bright-red convertible, which predictably leads to them getting pulled over. Unpredictably, however, in one of the film's best scenes, is Felix smooth-talking his way out of a traffic ticket and subsequently imploring the officers to give his aging ride a boost to get started again. It's the little things with On the Rocks, and those moments — often captured under the beautiful moonglow and deep-teals of Philippe Le Sourd's sexy cinematography — make for a satisfying watch.
When it comes to On the Rocks on a more personal level: consider the source. Sofia Coppola had to grow up under the parental guidance of her father, Francis Ford Coppola, who all but established the language of modern cinema with too many classics to name. Also consider that Rashida Jones is the daughter of Quincy Jones, the famous, Grammy-nominated record producer. On the Rocks posits a fractured but surviving relationship between a father and a daughter — one trope mainstream American cinema has yet to exhaust, disappointingly so — at its core. In turn, you're led to believe many autobiographical touches permeate this otherwise simple dramatic effort, especially one scene where Laura chews out her father for leading her to overthink the entire situation based on his own shortcomings; despite the fact she was pretty good at it herself before he got involved. Growing up under the limelight had to present a litany of tribulations for both women, particularly Coppola, who was lambasted for her role in her father's concluding chapter of The Godfather trilogy before she was old enough to realize that, like her father, she thrived behind the camera as opposed to in front of it. Here, that tension is softly echoed through Felix and Laura.
The fledgling insecurity Laura experiences throughout is conveyed well through little moments — something at which Coppola excels — as opposed to big screaming matches or unquestionably incriminating evidence towards Dean, making it lifelike in that way. Coppola also addresses the bygone suave male in contrast with the contemporary, open-minded female, who understandably doesn't much care for being made an object of passing affection. Another fine moment comes when Felix spends time with Laura's children, giving them ice cream before dinner and informing them that he always fancied women with their hair down. Laura promptly attempts a course-correction by saying to her girls they can wear their hair however they like. This push-pull furthers the philosophical differences both of them harbor.
On the Rocks is one of those films that truly could've used another 20-30 minutes. At 90 minutes long, it feels too slight by the time the climax arrives. It's gift-wrapped rather neatly for a film that detailed a rapid rise in a person's self-doubt throughout much of its runtime. The emphasis on cutesy-mutesy screenwriting inclusions (Felix enjoying caviar during a stakeout, or waxing poetic about why males fancy females with certain physical attributions) also further emphasizes Coppola's obsession with the minute versus the big picture takeaway, which shouldn't be so murky for a film this direct. Its soft finish makes it liable to be forgotten, but nonetheless a personal touchstone for its creator.
NOTE II: Check out my review of On the Rocks on my web-show Sleepless with Steve. Catch the show Wednesday evenings at 8pm CST at twitch.tv/sleeplesswithsteve!
Starring: Rashida Jones, Bill Murray, Marlon Wayans, Jessica Henwick, and Jenny Slate. Directed by: Sofia Coppola.