“On the Rocks” captures the charm of the mundane

Image courtesy of Apple.

Image courtesy of Apple.

Audrey Lai, Editor in Chief

Sofia Coppola’s “On the Rocks” was released in select theaters on Oct. 2 by A24 and on Apple TV+ on Oct. 23. The film follows the everyday life of novelist Laura (Rashida Jones) as she navigates her fears that her husband, Dean (Marlon Wayans), a successful entrepreneur, is having an affair. She notices his slipping attention, his attentiveness to his female co-worker and his long business trips as she stays home and raises their two daughters. These worries are heightened by her father, Felix’s (Bill Murray) insistence on pursuing a hasty investigation of Dean’s whereabouts.

Laura (Rashida Jones).

The strongest aspect of this film was the cast. Through the dull nature of her daily routine, Jones carves out a character who is diminutive but strong-willed and easily relatable to the audience. The protagonist of the film, Laura, is clearly overshadowed by the other figures in her life. Her actions are purely responsive to the actions of others, and her lack of true communication only allows the audience into her psyche through Jones’s subtle yet powerful facial expressions. Murray’s character provides a foil to Laura as well as much-needed comic relief.

The film was also strikingly beautiful. New York City is portrayed in muted blue in the daytime, while the city at night is in vibrant turquoise. Paired with the music of Chet Baker, the movie creates a minimalistic and intimate atmosphere, shining a different light on a city often characterized for its vastness. The most powerful moments of the movie were when the characters shared moments in silence, as they allowed the viewer to take in the beauty of the scene. 

Laura (Rashida Jones) and Felix (Bill Murray).

Although the plot revolves around Laura’s internal struggles with self-worth and her strained relationship with her husband, the heart of the film lies with her relationship with her father. Throughout the film, the palpable tension between Laura and Dean from their awkward body language and disconnected and artificial conversations are artfully juxtaposed with the comfortableness and depth of Laura and Felix’s colorful banter. Dean’s large presence in Laura’s life seems to loom over her, while Felix’s large presence fills the silence Laura seems to carry with her throughout the film.

The film reaches its climax when Felix convinces Laura to travel with him to Mexico to spy on Dean during his alleged business trip. From the beginning, Laura and Felix have had a strong relationship, but it was clear that there were unresolved issues from brief mentions of Felix’s past affair during Laura’s childhood as well as his smattered misogynistic comments. Laura reaches a point of clarity and breakthrough when she expresses her inner monologue which could only be inferred by the audience in the beginning of the film, finally taking explicit control of her own narrative.

“You can’t go deaf to women’s voices. You know that, right? You have daughters and granddaughters so you better start figuring out how to hear them.”

Although I thoroughly enjoyed the film, my primary criticism is the lack of on-screen chemistry between Jones and Wayans. As the main aspect of the movie’s plot, I felt that this hindered the strength of the overarching story.

‘On the Rocks’ isn’t Coppola’s strongest work, but it’s definitely worth a watch if you’re a fan of her trademark charming slice-of-life stories and brilliant cinematography.