Mastery Of Craft: Our Review of ‘On The Rocks’

Mastery Of Craft: Our Review of ‘On The Rocks’

There’s nothing quite as complicated as family…

It’s hard to “look forward” to things these days with the uncertainties at the theatrical level but this one certainly qualifies.

On The Rocks reunites Writer/Director Sofia Coppola and Bill Murray for yet another insightful look down the road of relationships that lets their obvious chemistry crackle just as well as it did when they made Lost In Translation.

Laura (Rashida Jones) thinks she’s happily hitched, but when her husband Dean (Marlon Wayans) starts logging late hours at the office with a new co-worker, Laura begins to fear the worst. She turns to the one man she suspects may have insight: her charming, impulsive father Felix (Bill Murray), who insists they investigate the situation. As the two begin prowling New York at night, careening from uptown parties to downtown hotspots, they discover at the heart of their journey lays their own relationship.

We needed this movie…no really.

On The Rocks is a reminder of the sheer joy of the cinematic form, it’s not an overly complex story, but it’s a real and relatable one that isn’t afraid to show it’s emotion and look a little silly when needed.  It’s anchored by some stellar camera work and two leading performances that will just never get enough credit for being as good as they truly are.

Sofia Coppola returns here with what brought her to the dance and it’s a visually dynamic and incredibly engaging affair from top to bottom.  She allows New York to come alive and be a character unto itself as we follow the tribulations of Rashida Jones’ character as she searches to get her groove back.  It’s a film with a genuine tone but it never loses a sense of whimsy either as it pokes fun at married life but also acknowledges that you can never let relationships get stale or unappreciated either.

Coppola isn’t shooting it reaction shots or trying to force comedy out of the situation, instead it all plays on a very wide and truly beautiful canvas for us to take in.  There are so many layers in this story that it’s actually hard to appreciate them all as the narrative straddles multiple genres to make something that is just incredibly witty and delightful without ever sacrificing a sense of honest to it at the same time.

I can only hope that there’s a studio head…or oil tycoon out there who is such a fan of Bill Murray that he can just get any damn project that he wants to be green lit.  Coppola and Murray pick up here like it was yesterday on the set of Lost In Translation.  She effortlessly writes to his rhythms of the character and it is so beautiful to watch that you’re going to want to cry.

It’s rare to see a writer/director so in sync with an actor but Murray and Coppola go together like Cream in Coffee…it’s hard to imagine them apart any time we see them together.

On the other side of the equation, the effortlessly brilliant Rashida Jones is simply fantastic as Laura, the devoted wife and mother who is at the stage where she needs to reclaim a little bit of her life before motherhood and simply doesn’t know which way to turn.  She brings a reality to the role which lets her get funny but doesn’t belittle the emotion of the fact that her marriage could be in trouble.  It’s complex material and Jones never gets enough credit for being the kind of actor who can handle this with ease and she’s fantastic in the film.

Ultimately, On The Rocks that cinema wasn’t born out of spectacle or forced nonsense, but rather on real stories.  Ones that can be sad, funny, all of the above or none of the above all at the same time and it takes artists at the height of the games to straddle all these emotions and ideas.  That’s what’s on display in On The Rocks; an unparralled mastery of craft.

On The Rocks is on a limited theatrical engagement now here in Toronto, and hits Apple TV + on October 23rd.

  • Release Date: 10/2/2020
This post was written by
David Voigt is a Toronto based writer with a problem and a passion for the moving image and all things cinema. Having moved from production to the critical side of the aisle for well over 10 years now at outlets like, Criticize This, Dork Shelf (Now That Shelf), to.Night Newspaper he’s been all across his city, the country and the continent in search of all the news and reviews that are fit to print from the world of cinema.
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