On The Rocks


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

On The Rocks
"We lack emotional investment in the underlying situation, possibly because Coppola is aiming to play almost everything for laughs."

Writer/director Sofia Coppola is lucky to have Bill Murray in her latest film because he elevates what is otherwise a fairly average dad and daughter tale the likes of which were common in indie festival line-ups a few years ago. His presence is a blessing and a curse for her, though, as his easy charm has a tendency to dominate scenes with Rashida Jones (Parks and Recreation), who plays his daughter Laura to such an extent that her character pales in comparison, even though she is ostensibly 'the lead'.

The set up is a simple one - that Laura is feeling stuck in a bit of a rut, with husband Dean (Marlon Wayans, in a much less comedic role than usual) working away a lot as she stays at home with their young family. After he returns with a woman's toilet bag among his belongings, despite an innocent excuse, she begins to suspect he may be having an affair. Enter Murray as her dear old disreputable dad Felix who, as a serial seducer of long standing, immediately assumes Dean is up to no good. Murray gets plenty of mileage from his ageing lothario, keeping him just on the right side of sympathetic and he and Jones succeed in conveying the lifetime of dad and daughter baggage that lies just beneath the surface. Laura's relationship with Dean is less successful, largely because, thanks to Dean only dipping in and out from the start, we lack emotional investment in the underlying situation, possibly because Coppola is aiming to play almost everything for laughs, although she never quite attains the Woody Allen New York vibe she seems to be aiming for.

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The film also suffers from cliche - including Laura having writer's block (the seemingly permanent state of writers in indie films), her dad, inevitably, having a souped up motor to go on a detective mission in and what feels like an almost inevitable trip down Mexico way. The details remain engaging, from the costuming - Laura in a jumper that looks genuinely lived in or the jumper with clouds scudding across it worn by a New Agey mum (Jenny Slate) at Laura's kids' school who only talks about herself - to the work of the production design team, who make Laura and Dean's home look lived in to the max.

There are moments when Coppola seems to be on to something a little deeper - the loneliness a mum can feel in a crowded house, for example, or the toll having a dad so charming he couldn't hold down his marriage can take on the father-daughter relationship - but because of the emphasis on comedy, she never lingers long enough to make much of a point. This is a perfectly watchable film, lifted by Jones and Murray, and which moves along at a breezy clip, but in a few years time it will be hard to pick out of a line-up of similarly themed indies.

Reviewed on: 01 Oct 2020
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On The Rocks packshot
When a woman suspects her husband of an affair, her dad encourages her to join him on a mission to uncover the truth.
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New York 2020

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