Director: Sofia Coppola | Runtime: 1h 36mins | Drama, Comedy
Laura (Rashida Jones) begins to suspect her workaholic Husband (Marlon Wayans) is having an affair. In order to get the truth she reconnects with her eccentric and playboy Father, Felix (Bill Murray).
Sofia Coppola has always been one of the very best at showing us humanity at it’s most confused. Whether it be Somewhere’s (2010) seemingly empty narrative of an actor caught in a purgatory of purpose, or the touching story of two lost souls finding each other in Tokyo in Lost in Translation (2003), she always captures something wonderfully unique that’s both rife with style and has an uncanny connection to the human condition. It’s no different with On the Rocks, a film that’s set up to challenge infidelity but in reality is an adventure of lost connection and reconciliation between a Daughter and her Father.
Set in a contemporary New York, the film is very in the here-and-now with it’s story. After all, Coppola isn’t a Director that is from a forgotten age of filmmakers, she’s a director that has matured and managed to shape her creativity for an audience of the current climate. The film’s setting of wide open New York apartments and modern-business set ups feels like a love a letter to the city – not with a gushing affection like a Woody Allen movie but rather a celebration of the cities progression and culture.
Laura and her husband are the perfect example of this modern New York, she is a writer who can’t seem to work out of the rut she finds herself in, and he’s working for a vague social media start up that seems to make him travel anywhere and everywhere. Coppola is very good at setting up their life together, one with a lot of lost passion and a modern struggle that many people can find a connection too. But the story really kicks in when we first Murray’s character, Felix.
The actual investigation is hilariously played out by Rashida Jones and Murray, her reluctancy is usually won over by Felix because of Murray’s unstoppable charisma and charm.
Laura’s suspicions are more fleeting than anything but once she goes to Felix, who’s played in very Bill Murray fashion, she begins to get more and more worried about what her Husband is doing. Felix is someone who deeply loves his Daughter, but his shortcomings are in his love life. He flirts and hits on every woman that crosses his path (even in his Daughters presence), and has a spent his life cultivating a playboy image for himself – justifying his behaviour with speeches on natural instinct and self-control. The way Coppola uses Felix’s personality to influence Laura’s decisions is very subtle, she only becomes more suspicious on the advice of her Father who, as we find out later, cheated on Laura’s Mother.
The actual investigation is hilariously played out by Rashida Jones and Murray, her reluctancy is usually won over by Felix because of Murray’s unstoppable charisma and charm. During one point of the investigation in which they decide to follow Laura’s Husband incognito, Felix pulls up in a vintage red sports car with caviar at hand. He even decides to fly her all the way to Mexico in order to spy on him during a business trip. These parts are Coppola working at her most quirky, latching onto the indie-style she is wonderful at giving us making it extremely difficult not to love Felix as a character. But as Laura reminds us at the end, as a Father he’s wildly flawed and unpredictable.
This is when Coppola wants to flip the themes of the movie on their head, Laura’s suspicion is merely a product of her Father’s behaviour, as well as the pseudo-investigator role he takes throughout the film. All of the classy bars and restaurants Felix takes his daughter to are more about trying to stay connected to her rather than helping her, and even though it’s never stated that Felix feels remorse about what he did there is an underlying fear of losing Laura as his little girl. Its played out wonderfully in an emotional outburst by Rashida Jones, who carries Coppola’s words in beautifully dignified way, in which the thematic coyness of the film comes bursting out of the seams.
It’s a wonderful way of using a characters to lead your audience down an unexpected avenue, and while the subdued nature of the themes does restrict them being investigated to their fullest potential, it manages to jazz up the Drama Comedy without losing it’s core. It’s a gorgeous love letter to a modern New York, one that’s performed wonderfully by Jones and Murray. As for a Coppola, she once again gives us a little dosage of the human experience in the only way she knows how.