As a fan of both Rashida Jones and A24 films, I was thrilled about seeing On the Rocks yet ultimately found myself struggling to enjoy it while viewing. The film, directed and written by Sofia Coppola, is about a mother named Laura (Rashida Jones) who reconnects with her misogynistic father Felix (Bill Murray) as they investigate her husband’s possible affair.
My first issue with the film was the plot, marriage troubles and daddy issues are certainly nothing groundbreaking in popular films and when you add in a cheating scandal it just becomes jarring. Plus I won’t give away the ending, but I can assure you that you won’t leave satisfied.
Secondly, I really wanted the chemistry between Jones and Murray to be beaming off the screen — because frankly that was the only way the film was going to work — but to my disappointment it was not. They were just believable enough as family and their back and forth felt lifeless overall.
Next, I felt like the major characters were largely one dimensional — starting with Felix, who was a walking cliche. His lines were meant to add shock value but instead felt obvious given the nature of the character. Laura on the other hand, felt like nothing more than a middle-aged housewife who has completely conceded to that role without any sense of alternative identity left in her — which was upsetting to see.
And we can’t forget Laura’s husband Dean (Marlon Wayans), who seems kind yet was always away traveling for business and doesn’t spend enough time with his family. The plot kept altering the light in which Dean was portrayed making it extremely difficult to get invested in him at all. My thoughts are that getting to know him better may have greatly increased the value of the story.
My favorite character in the film was Vanessa (Jenny Slate). Slate only had a few scenes but her knack for comic relief greatly added to the film. I wish she had played a more significant role in Laura’s story. For me, the only real saving grace of On the Rocks was the score composed of classic jazz as well as the cinematography that painted a beautiful picture of New York City in the evening.
If you feel so compelled to view On the Rocks, I would just suggest lowering your expectations and taking the film for what it is. Even with its bland plot, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was nominated for an Oscar this year — given it was produced by A24 and has a favorable cast and crew. That being said, I don’t think On the Rocks is winning best picture — if it remarkably acquires a nomination — nor is neither lead going home with a win for lead actor/actress.
On the Rocks is available to stream on Apple TV.
By Blair Krassen @blairlyawake