While high expectations may be the culprit, the trifecta of writer/director Sofia Coppola, subtle and brilliant Bill Murray and equally subtle and brilliant Rashida Jones, On the Rocks, as a whole, is just too subtle for a feature-length film. Or, maybe, viewed through the 2020 lens of a pandemic where constant noise, news and vitriol is the norm, the film’s lack of energy feels … unnerving, or, at the very least, unfamiliar.
With a muted and moody aesthetic, the New York-set comedy/drama finds Laura (Jones) struggling in her professional life as a fiction writer, but even more so in her personal life, when the spark in her marriage to her husband (Marlon Wayans) seems nonexistent. While he’s traveling for work, she’s living in the mundane day-to-day of school drop offs, where she has to endure the tales of woe from another school mom (played by the underrated and always-funny Jenny Slate who nails the impression of a dramatic narcissist with masterful precision).
It isn’t until Laura finds another woman’s toiletry bag in her husband’s suitcase that the plot is set into a snails-paced motion. Enter: her womanizing, man-child father Felix (Murray, reteaming with Coppola 17 years after Lost in Translation) who convinces Laura that her husband is cheating on her. In buddy-comedy fashion (without, necessarily, the comedy) the two set out on a quest – to Mexico and back – to uncover said infidelity.
The premise is promising, as are the lead actors whose extensive backgrounds in film and television have proven their abilities to elevate material with looks, reactions, line readings, etc. Together, they’re believable as father and daughter; a relationship more compelling than the aforementioned marriage on the rocks. But the tropes of a wife being deeply saddened that her husband bought an appliance for her birthday rather than jewelry feels … outdated? Or, again, maybe because the movie was made before the world shut down, it’s unfair to say that Laura’s problems aren’t worthy of our time. They are – but they mean less now.
On the Rocks is an Apple Original Films and A24 Release.
In select theaters October 2 and on AppleTV+ starting October 23.