On the Rocks (2020)

On the Rocks
Director: Sofia Coppola
Writer: Sofia Coppola
Cast: Rashida Jones, Bill Murray, Marlon Wayans, Jessica Henwick, Jenny Slate, Barbara Bain, Kelly Lynch
Seen on: 14.10.2020

Content Note: sexism

Laura (Rashida Jones) is a writer who is waiting for her flow to come back after having children. Meanwhile her husband Dean (Marlon Wayans) works a lot, including many business trips. When Laura tells her flighty father Felix (Bill Murray) about some weird moments she had with Dean, hinting at her suspicions that he might be cheating on her, Felix – who was never faithful in his life – is absoluletly convinced that Dean is having an affair. Despite her initial disbelief, Laura gets drawn into the surveillance mission that Felix makes out of his suspicion – a mission that keeps growing in scope.

My relationship with Coppola’s movies is rocky at best (no puns intended), and while I’d say that On the Rocks is definitely one of her films that worked more for me than others did, it still didn’t really come together for me, remaining mostly just fine.

The film poster showing Laura (Rashida Jones) and Felix (Bill Murray) sitting at a table in a bar.

On the Rocks has some genuinely funny moments and Rashida Jones is absolutely fantastic. I also empathized with the feeling of entrapment that accompanies her through her life and that the shenanigans with her father shake her out of a little. But I had so many issues with Felix that not even Bill Murray’s charm could placate those issues.

In fact, I should rather say that Murray’s charm was part of the problem. Because Felix is an asshole – and I don’t know if the film doesn’t notice that part or if it uses Murray to make you forget, but it certainly would rather gloss over the fact that Felix doesn’t respect a single boundary that Laura tries to set. And it glosses over the crass sexism that Felix spouts at all times, selling it as an unfortunate personality quirk instead of the hurtful shit it really is – all in an effort to somehow salvage the relationship between Laura and Felix. (In this context, the portrayal of Laura’s friend Vanessa becomes even more grating – she is the caricature of “the desperate single woman”, a characterization that is only somewhat mitigated by Jenny Slate’s excellent performance.)

Laura (Rashida Jones) and Felix (Bill Murray) in a flashy sportscar, looking at something with suspicion.

For a film that is also making some feminist points, this juxtaposition was doubly frustrating. And I just couldn’t find much humor in it, as much as the film tried to be a comedy, including an oversized final act where things get so big, they get entirely out of control. It’s a final act that felt out of step with the rest of the film for me – I think it would have been better if it had stayed smaller there.

As usual with Coppola’s movies, I would have liked to like On the Rocks more. It’s a shiny film, very polished. But maybe I would have needed a crack or two in that shine to really connect with it.

Laura (Rashida Jones) and Felix (Bill Murray) in the back of a car, both whistling.

Summarizing: oh well.

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