Director: Sofia Coppola
Writer(s): Sofia Coppola
Cast: Bill Murray, Rashida Jones, Marlon Wayans
Synopsis: A young mother reconnects with her larger-than-life playboy father on an adventure through New York.
Sofia Coppola has a permanent place in my heart as she wrote one of my all-time favorite scripts in Lost in Translation. A film that completely subverted my expectations on how to write a film. In Lost in Translation we got a story of love through friendship and not sexual desires, we got happiness through the people we meet along the way, and we got a coming-of-age story thrown on top of it exploring youth and the desires of it. We were taken down and an unpredictable path where every decision in our mind was altered by some change in the film.
And where Lost in Translation was an unpredictable glance into a new world, On the Rocks was a simple look into a life we already know. That is where the film faltered for me the most, was the simplicity. If this was a first feature or debut, I could understand the safe and simple structure. But from an established writer/director, one who burst on the stage with such a powerful and affecting movie, this seemed like something that didn’t fully utilize her writing or directing talents.
This isn’t to say everything in this film I didn’t like. One of the standouts and I bet you could’ve guessed this, was Bill Murray. Murray, who should easily be nominated for Supporting Actor, brings a sense of charm and charisma to the screen that he is known so well for, and can pull off so naturally. This role feels like it was made and written for him, it probably was knowing Sofia and Bill’s relationship, and he managed to slide in and deliver a knockout performance. He shows off his fast-talking and witty style in a fantastic scene with the police, but it is his moment with his daughter, Laura (Rashida Jones), in Mexico that really flipped the Bill Murray-isms on its head. It is a very personal and soft moment in the film where we get a reflection on Felix’s (Murray) life, and a recognition of the mistakes he has made along the way. It is tender and gorgeously delivered by Murray in a way that made me wish there were more of these moments through the film.
Because this movie lives and breathes by Bill Murray. That is a pretty safe place to rest your film on, but not even Murray could completely save this movie. The biggest issue I had with it was the story. I appreciated the father/daughter aspect of it and enjoyed the mystery/detective side of it as well. My biggest gripe is that the film didn’t go anywhere I wasn’t expecting. With Lost in Translation, we never knew what was going to happen next between the two characters. There was an unpredictability that kept the audience engaged until the final scene. In On the Rocks, you could point out where everything was going to go. It was predictable and was void of any sort of wonderment. It was a mystery that didn’t include any mystical aspect to keep me on my toes.
The moments between Felix and Laura were sweet and moving, and you could really feel how much Felix was toying this along in an attempt to reconnect with his daughter. There was a want from both sides that wanted all of this to be false but also wanted it to be true so they had an excuse to spend some time with each other. I personally just wish this wasn’t so by the books and provided a little bit more of an enigmatic undertone to the entire project.
Final: On the Rocks takes us on a fun, but predictable, journey driven by Bill Murray. Murray reunites with writer/director Sofia Coppola to give us a sweet story about a father and daughter and the longing for each other. Murray truly shines, even when the movie doesn’t. While I did like this film, I couldn’t help but think there was something much greater that was missing.
Current Tomato Score: 86%
Current Metacritic: 73
Current IMDb: 6.7/10
Awards Prospects: Supporting Actor
Jacob is a film critic and co-founder of the Music City Drive-In. He is a member of the Music City Film Critics’ Association and specializes in the awards season. You can find him on Twitter @Tberry57.