Sofia Coppola, known for directorial masterpieces such as Lost in Translation and Marie Antoinette has returned, this time reuniting with long-time collaborator Bill Murray, along with other stellar cast members, including Rashida Jones and Marlon Wayans.
There is extraordinarily little pleasure to be had in feeling a sense of anxiety, except perhaps when been drawn into a well-crafted movie. On the Rocks, one of the year’s biggest sleeper-hits, takes audiences on an interesting exploration of the relationship between a father and his daughter, and Coppola coats it with just enough glitter to keep us engaged and surprisingly, pleasantly anxious.
Jones plays Laura, a New Yorker with personal problems. Her marriage appears to be perfect – but like so many other picture-perfect marriages, it is actually far from it. Her husband Dean, played by Wayans, is incredibly successful, and the couple have two ridiculously cute daughters. However, Laura is convinced that Dean is cheating on her with one of his co-workers. That’s just the beginning of her problems. Everything else in Laura’s life feels a little bit out of place. She is a fairly successful writer, but threw herself into motherhood, so her next novel seems to be progressing at snail’s pace. Perhaps Laura’s biggest challenge fuelling all of her other problems, is her feeling that she has lost all sense of who she is.
The movie’s shining moments come from the relationship that Laura has with her father Felix, played by Murray. He presents as a juxtaposition to his daughter. He dazzles every room he walks into, appears to be unaffected by his age and simply lives his best life travelling the world, being a playboy and always having essentials like takeout caviar on hand.
Despite his seemingly irresponsible emotional connection with his daughter, he is fiercely protective of her. At the slightest suggestion that his daughter may need his help, he drops everything for her and swoops in to help. However, he comes dangerously close to being too involved and almost taking over her entire life.
As with many of Coppola’s other films, On the Rocks is very gentle in what it reveals. It’s funny, but not overly so. The duo that Coppola and Murray form is almost untouchable. She understands his deadpan acting so well and allows it to guide the movie. We don’t see Laura go through anything overly dramatic, nor do we see a grand revelation at the end. There are no fast cars or fireworks. However, there is a layer of detail in her storytelling that allows for big statements to be made without anything needing to be said.
For example, it is very clear that Laura lives a comfortable, breezy life. She definitely comes from money such as that you could win with online gaming, but it is never mentioned. She is a semi-successful writer who lives in a house much nicer than the houses that other semi-successful writers live in. Laura clearly doesn’t need to write for a living, but she does. Coppola’s layered storytelling makes On the Rocks a bit of a celluloid masterpiece, but without all the extra trimmings.