The Spooky Season is over, but a distinct chill still hangs in the air. If you haven’t already dived headfirst into a mountain of Hallmark Christmas titles, you’re likely on the hunt for the kind of cozy watch that pairs well with a blanket and your favorite beverage. As your cinematic sommelier, might I recommend On the Rocks? A smooth and stylish film from Sofia Coppola, that’s sophisticated while still bringing the soft, sweetness you want in a film about fathers and daughters.
On the Rocks is written and directed by Sofia Coppola and stars Bill Murray and Rashida Jones, with performances by Marlon Wayans. In On the Rocks, a young New York wife and mother is starting to have her doubts. She has a happy marriage, a picture-perfect family, and her husband is a great success. Yet, all of his long hours at the office begin to gnaw at her and the seed of doubt is planted. She turns to the man she trusts most for answers — a charming, larger-than-life playboy type. Her father.
Granted, the comedy subgenre of “rich people shenanigans” is a tad tired if not culturally tone-deaf… but I’ll be damned if On the Rocks doesn’t make it work! There’s a certain delightful voyeurism that comes with watching intimate dramas unfold in impossibly beautiful settings. The entire film is tuned in to the most romantically packaged version of New York City, with “love letter” absolutely written all over it. As far as space and place are concerned, On the Rocks is a neat glass of something expensive, quietly enjoyed in a plush booth of some bar.
The greater charm of On the Rocks, however, is found in its ability to make the audience root for characters that we absolutely should not like. Laura (Rashida Jones) is not entirely accessible or relatable. Her suspicions are unfounded and her life is far from troubled. Yet, we can all connect with doubt and anxiety and an unhealthy but unavoidable dependence on our loved ones. Bill Murray, as her father, operates in the same way. He’s a problematic figure, but one that we can see straight through. Eyeroll inducing, but harmless and charming. Bill Murray and Rashida Jones create a very elegant sweetness together. The pair connects on a level that the viewer may not relate to, but can instantly recognize as confidantes and co-conspirators. Again, it’s charming as hell and, despite any protest I may have offered, you can’t help but be won over.
Though its plot synopsis may fool you, On the Rocks is a love story. It’s a story about fathers and daughters and how our parents continue to support us, even though our problems grow up as we do. On the Rocks is also a love story because it shows that a picture-perfect marriage still requires daily faith, devotion, and work. In the film, Laura doubts her husband. Her doubt comes from her own insecurity about what she can offer to a partner that would attract anyone. What’s worse is that she views her husband through the lens of her father. Laura was raised by a man that was also a magnetic force, but used it to be unfaithful. This is the heart of On the Rocks.
Laura’s father also views love and marriage through his own self-centered perspective. His own infidelities are projected onto Laura’s marriage, which is precisely why he rushes to her aid. As the pair tails Laura’s husband, he reflects on his own shortcomings and recounts the moments where he fell in love with Laura’s mother. It’s a beautiful juxtaposition, to hear memories of falling in love unfold as a young love potentially crumbles.
Marriage is not the subject of On the Rocks so much as the frame. On the Rocks is really a story about how we grapple with growing up, learning from our parents, pledging to be better and not repeat their mistakes, and admit to ourselves all the ways that we are like them. Laura’s relationship with her father is so moving because it embodies the sweet and the sour. In small, intimate moments the viewer understands every moment that he has been there for her as well as every time he has let her down. It’s a soft, sophisticated balance that Coppola executes to perfection.
On the Rocks is a rich viewing experience. The film’s aesthetic, narrative, and warm performances wrap around the viewer like a luxurious throw. It’s an exercise in decadent subtleties, with Bill Murray’s performance being the créme de la créme. A delight.
On the Rocks is available to stream now, on Apple TV+.
On the Rocks
Caitlin is a sweater enthusiast, film critic, and lean, mean writing machine based in Austin, TX. Her love of film began with being shown Rosemary’s Baby at a particularly impressionable age and she’s been hooked ever since. She loves a good bourbon and hates people who talk in movies. Caitlin has been writing since 2014 and you can find her work on Film Inquiry, The Financial Diet, Nightmarish Conjurings, and many others. Follow her on Twitter at @CaitDoes.