Movie: Review: On The Rocks – The Nerd Daily

Sofia Coppola’s talents as a visual artist often top her talents as a screenwriter, and in On the Rocks she places more faith in the latter. The screenplay is serviceable – Coppola is essentially writing her version of a screwball comedy using a father and daughter as the central couple getting into all sorts of trouble. She is also updating the subgenre to the 21st century, imbuing its typically troubled gender relations with a deeper sense of paranoia and mistrust.
But through all the misadventures of father-daughter duo, Felix and Laura, it is the images that will stick. The two framed against a patterned golden wallpaper in a restaurant, divided by a lampstand; Felix speeding through New York City in his red convertible; Laura facing a dearth of inspiration in her clinical, white apartment. Had Coppola dedicated more time to visuals such as these, then she may have been able to strengthen this complementary balance of Laura’s insecurities and Felix’s selfishly joyous approach to living. As it stands, she leaves a lot up to the actors.
Fortunately, both Rashida Jones and Bill Murray deliver in their respective roles. As Felix, Murray possesses a distinctive charm, unable to converse with women without some casual flirting. His relationship with Laura’s mother crumbled years ago due to his own immaturity, yet he visibly carries his own fair share of emotional pain that pushes him to continue seeking out shallow pleasures and distractions. For him, sex is a barrier that prevents the development of genuine relationships. As Laura is the only woman he cannot view as a sexual prospect, she becomes the single most important person in his life.
Felix is also entrenched in the belief that every man is just as dishonest as him, using it as a coping mechanism that allows him to brush off culpability. He inflicts this belief upon his daughter, who then uses it to project her insecurities upon her husband. In actuality, the true nature of this husband-wife relationship is barely significant. Every development in Laura’s investigation continues to return to the bond she shares with her father, and the undeniable sway he has held over her since she was young.

It is far from Coppola’s greatest directorial effort, but with On the Rocks she continues to ruminate on celebrity culture, isolation, and the malleability of youth, reflecting on her own life as the daughter of one of the most famous directors in film history. The film takes these notions more directly into the realm of familial relationships, exploring the blessings and curses associated with having such a well-loved but troubled father. For all his faults, Felix is not a villain. His and Laura’s flaws balance each other out, briefly causing trouble but ultimately arriving at a mutual respect and understanding of each other – the sort of understanding that necessarily leads to the recognition of when one needs to step back and let the other grow into their own person.
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