REVIEW: Sofia Coppola continues her legacy of quality with ‘On the Rocks’



Still of Rashida Jones and Bill Murray in “On the Rocks.”

The name Sofia Coppola is always associated with the cool and fun energy of the early 2000s indie film scene. With her early works like “The Virgin Suicides,” “Lost in Translation” and “Marie Antionette,” being some of the most influential and culturally significant works of their time. Her films usually have bright colors, hip modern soundtracks, beautiful people and dazzling locations.

It is so ingrained in her brand that it does make one think what it would be like if the “cool” wasn’t there anymore. It turns out that no one really thinks about this notion more than Coppola herself and it’s the primary focus of her latest films, “On The Rocks.”

The film stars Rashida Jones as Laura, a struggling author and dedicated mother of two. Most of her days are spent carrying her kids to their many events around New York or spending hours in front of her computer preparing to write but never actually writing. Her world gets taken off course when she begins to suspect her workaholic husband (a profoundly miscast Marlon Wayans) of having an affair. Laura then enlists the help of her eccentric playboy father, Felix (played by Bill Murray with all his trademark qualities dialed up to 10), to assist her in following her husband around and getting to the bottom of his actions.

It’s a fantastic set-up for an odd couple comedy, and Jones and Murray are more than up for the challenge here. Their chemistry is magnetic and subtly quite endearing — this movie comes alive when it focuses on their history and connection. 

It doesn’t take long to realize that this movie at its core isn’t really about the mystery of the affair; it’s about a woman who has realized she isn’t the cool and exciting woman she thought she was anymore, and a father who has realized the only way his daughter will spend time with him is if her life is falling apart. It gives the whole movie an incredibly bittersweet air that pairs nicely with Philippe Le Sourd’s soft candid cinematography and Phoenix’s wonderful lo-fi synth score.

All these qualities paired with the great setup for the film carry it flawlessly until  it seems to completely crumble under the weight of it and lose sight. I obviously do not want to spoil where this film goes in its third act because it is genuinely surprising, but it seems to really undercut much of what the entire first two-thirds wanted you to get out of this, and leads to a frustrating, rushed and frankly kind of confusing conclusion. 

It’s clear that there is so much personal connection in this film for Coppola — who herself is a mother to two children and daughter to an eccentric larger-than-life individual — but her narrative becomes burden by its own mysteries and abandon’s genuine poignancy and catharsis in place of surprises and happy endings.

There’s a reckoning with Coppola’s own “coolness” as she settles into this more sophisticated and subdued world her characters are in. And happily for her, as it turns out Coppola doesn’t need that “coolness” to make a good movie, she just needs a script that feels like it has its mind, and heart, made up.