Relationship Advice from Bill Murray: On the Rocks (2020)--Reviewed


Courtesy of A24, Apple Studios
The thing about film as a medium is that it can do many things. It can entertain, providing us comfort from our real world anxieties. We used to be able to walk into a theater and take for granted every waking moment of what is basking on that silver screen. But film can do so much more than just entertain us. It can illuminate untold stories and perspectives, revealing the truth that lies wide open in our wild. It has the ability to tell the stories we need to hear. But it can also heal us. On The Rocks is comfort cinema at it's finest. 

Written and directed by Sofia Coppola, On The Rocks is the story of a young mother named Laura (Rashida Jones). While she has success as an author, something is wrong in Laura's world. Something is gnawing at her. Maybe it is the insecurities of middle age rapidly sneaking up on her. Or it could be the possibility of her career-driven husband having an affair with a co-worker. Whatever that  something is that is eating her up inside. She has got to get to the bottom of whatever is causing this existential funk and the only help she has is her estranged playboy ne're do well dad (Bill Murray). The father and daughter duo band together and go to find out if Laura's husband is cheating.

On the Rocks is Coppola at her most low-key and restrained, especially following 2017's The Beguiled. There is an air of weightlessness that flows through out. The stakes aren't very high and the movie is not very surprising in telegraphing where it is going or what it is about. It is a very cozy and predictable film. 

Rashida Jones does great work in this film, bringing her warm and likable screen presence to a character that would read a little thin on paper. Bill Murray does great work as a charming old kind of misogynist cad that doesn't really learn a lot. The rest of the cast of this film like Jenny Slate and Marlon Wayans are talented and have some fun scenes but you really just want to get back to seeing what Jones and Murray are up too. They are the best parts of the film. 

While this film reunites Coppola and her Lost in Translation star, this feels much closer to her 2010 film Somewhere. If Lost in Translation was a love story about two lost souls finding one another, On the Rocks is a love story about a father and daughter reconnecting.  Mismatched duos are a staple of comedy filmmaking since it’s inception. The comedic potential of watching two very different personalities clash is the gift that keeps on giving. It is an age-old formula that can leave audiences laughing all the way home. Given the talent involved with this film, I had hopes for a fun buddy comedy drama that serves as counter programming to the awful sad news that is happening in the world right now and this delivered. 

While it lacks the depth of her previous films like Lost in Translation, On the Rocks is Sofia Coppola's charming love letter to pre-pandemic New York and the screwball comedies of yesteryear. While it is not the best film Sofia has made, it is a lowkey charming comedy that made me forget about my problems for ninety minutes. And sometimes, that's all you need. 

--Liam S. O'Connor