You can safely assume that when there’s a name Coppola attached to the directorial status of a new film, there’s at the very least a slight inflation in the critical or ”hype” response. With On The Rocks, directed and written by Sofia Coppola, that’s the limbo I found myself in. Trying to find peace between domestic drama and kind-of-road comedy, married Laura (Rashida Jones) is suspecting that her husband Dean (Marlon Wayans) could be cheating on her and all the anxiety about that is doubled because Laura feels creatively stuck on her writing and mentally stuck because of busy home life. Laura’s womanizer father Felix (Bill Murray) comes to her aide to follow Dean around, and during the time they spend together, they bicker about their relationship and repressed feelings. As the movie lacks bite and consistency, wonderful leads elevate the mediocre material.
Jones and Murray are tasked with a lot of empty space to fill so it’s rather applaudable that you even care to stick around for the latter hour. They both are constantly able to match the other’s level when it’s called for. In comedic scenes that are filled with witty dialogue, it’s showcased best as things get funnier in more low-key approach. In scenes that remind more of relationship drama and the characters reflect on Laura’s childhood, both actors manage to take a step back from being showy which serves the awkwardness well. Wayans and short lived appearances of Jenny Slate (as Vanessa) also compliment Jones’ performance. Actors deserve all the credit for making this as enjoyable as it can be.
On The Rocks’ lack of bite shows in the way that the story shifts between being built around drama about marriage and dry comedy making jokes about daughter and father. The conversations work because of the actors but most of them don’t move us when it comes to the main story. There are the ingredients of good character study of the two but when we try to follow a sort-of-mystery, it takes the edge off. You might feel a bit frustrated during it because it’s technically high-level all around but it’s hard to see anything specific which would show that this has Coppola’s handprint on the page or screen. Laura starts by being stuck and having nothing to write about to eventually having 60-something pages of material. That’s great for character building here but it could’ve used few more pages of story to be ultimately fulfilling.
Smileys: Rashida Jones, Bill Murray
Even if you happen to like it more, I very much doubt you’ll ever watch it again.