On the Rocks (2020)

One of the films I have been eager to watch has been Sofia Coppola’s latest offering, On the Rocks. Starring Rashida Jones as novelist Laura who suspects her husband, Dean (Marlon Wayans) is having an affair. When Laura’s father, Felix (Bill Murray) comes to town, Laura finds her doubts grow until she isn’t sure what she believes anymore. In true Coppola style, the characters are part of a laid back high society not unfamiliar to what Coppola herself is probably accustomed to. Bringing Coppola back onto familiar ground after venturing into other genres in her previous projects, On the Rocks is a lighter offering from Coppola that explores the complexities of marriage and gender roles within the relationship. Distributed by A24 and released on Apple TV, On the Rocks sees Coppola fully embrace the power of streaming service releases as well as reunite with A24 after the release of 2013’s The Bling Ring.

As expected, Coppola both directs and provides the screenplay. Full of signature tropes commonly seen in her films, On the Rocks feels like a more mature offering. Laura is a grounded and settled protagonist, balancing life as a novelist and mother of two. Like many protagonists in Coppola’s films, Laura isn’t afraid to ask questions and isn’t willing to sweep things under the rug. The direction is more toned down to coincide with the topics and characters and yet feels true to Coppola’s style. Interweaving different forms of music with an impressive soundtrack, On the Rocks is the perfect film to showcase the struggles of the modern day woman. Even when shown from a privileged perspective, Coppola is brilliant at making films that can feel relatable for the female audience particularly.

Rashida Jones is perfect as Laura, especially during when she tries to reason with herself when Dean starts to spend a lot of time with his assistant. If this film was directed by any.other director, you could expect another cliche film where the woman is in hysterics and throwing water over her husband. Luckily, this film was made by Sofia Coppola who doesn’t feed into the gender stereotypes and Jones’ performance as Laura perfectly encapsulates how women are forced to adapt a grin and bear it exterior whilst acting as detective. Jones’ approach is subtle and toned as Laura is desperately trying to keep control of the situation and subsequently her life. As mentioned before, even though Laura has a privileged life, her aim to balance a successful work and home life is completely relatable, especially as the scenes in which her and Felix are scheming occur while her children are playing or at ballet class. When the different aspects of Laura’s life begin to be disrupted by her assumptions of Dean’s affair, she becomes manipulated and poisoned by Felix’s persuasions that she willingly follows his instructions without further thinking.

Bill Murray is impeccable as Felix, perfectly encompassing his toxicity and confidence. Felix isn’t necessarily a likeable character but his charisma is hard to ignore. Murray performs the hell out of this character and its hard not to smile as he whistles and worms his way out of tricky situations. On the surface, it seems that he just wants what is best for his daughter but you can’t help but question his motives. He is a man who is set in stereotyped ways, believing that men are not capable of emotion and dead set that Dean is cheating. He encourages Laura to pursue the situation and has Dean followed by a private investigator as well as buying him and Laura tickets to Mexico to follow Dean on his business trip. It could be argued that Felix is the emotional driving force behind Laura’s doubts despite his previous claims that men are detached.

Overall, On the Rocks marks a new direction for Sofia Coppola that shows her growth as a writer and director. Working with familiar and unfamiliar faces allows her to explore new terrain without feeling too uncomfortable. Her commentary on the modern woman is always an interesting take and using Laura as a scope into how the tiniest seed of doubt can grow beyond control makes for a film that is balanced between comedy and drama with small splashes of suspense as well. Contrasting scenes of Felix charming guests at the hotel in Mexico with his singing immediately followed by an emotional exchange in which he is forced to look back on the mistakes he has made and whether he regrets having an affair on Laura’s mother. Just as the title also suggests, Coppola doesn’t allow the audience to sit comfortably to reflect the rocky road the couple are on right now.

What did you think of On the Rocks? Let me know in the comments below!

On the Rocks is available to watch on Apple TV!

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