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A-Ron’s New Movie Reviews Presents: “On The Rocks” (2020)

•Now Available Exclusively On AppleTV+

Writer and director Sofia Coppola’s newest film “On The Rocks” is an AppleTV+ original film and ranks as her best work. Coppola brings us her most mainstream movie to date and delivers her best take on a Woody Allen film. Sofia Coppola reunites with Bill Murray in a real movie star performance, as the beautiful Rashida Jones does some of her finest work as Murray’s daughter and never lets the heavy hitter comedic legend outshine her. At a short 1 hour and 37 minutes, “On the Rocks” isn’t trying to go for a complex storyline of slamming doors and arguments. It’s about Laura who has to contemplate whether or not her husband is unfaithful, while examining her own life, her priorities and her relationship with her father. Sofia Coppola continues her winning streak and accomplishes another piece of fine work.

Writer and director Sofia Coppola’s filmmaking style is far from that of her legendary father. Often taking a more indie approach to her films, her newest film “On The Rocks” is an AppleTV+ original film and ranks as her best work alongside “Somewhere”, “The Beguiled” and “Lost In Translation”. Coppola brings us her most mainstream movie to date and delivers her best take on a Woody Allen film. 

While it took some time (seventeen years to be exact), after Sofia Coppola and Bill Murray collaborated on the highly beloved “Lost in Translation” and a half decade after the meta holiday special “A Very Murray Christmas”. The filmmaking and acting talents have re-teamed for the whip smart, bittersweet comedy/drama. Recently, Coppola has tried to push her abilities with one of my favorites of hers; the gothic chiller “The Beguiled”, or in trying to toy with the unpleasant world of rich kids in “The Bling Ring” and my favorite film of Sofia’s, that starred Stephen Dorff in a look at fatherhood through the eyes of a bad boy actor in “Somewhere”. 

But in her latest, “On the Rocks” Coppola seems to make an attempt to get back to the panache of “Lost in Translation”, as Sofia Coppola and Bill Murray take another melancholy look at relationships. “On The Rocks” stars Bill Murray who is at the top of his deadpan game and the beautiful Rashida Jones who is best known as daughter to Quincy Jones and star of “I Love You Man” and “The Office”. Rashida Jones does some of her finest work here playing Murray’s daughter. 

Rashida Jones plays Laura who is in her 30s and seems to have it all. She’s married to the compassionate and successful Dean (a sweet and charming Marlon Wayans), who has one of those movie jobs of running some of sort of start-up company that’s about to blow up huge. Laura and Dean have two wonderful daughters, elementary student Maya (Liyanna Muscat) and toddler Theo (played by twins Anna and Alexandra Reimer); and Laura’s an accomplished author.

But Laura’s becoming increasingly anxious about the possibility that Dean is having a fling with his attractive young assistant, Fiona (Jessica Henwick), whom he refers to as “Fifi”. Enter…Laura’s father Felix (Murray), who always manages to be the most charming man in the room and he knows it. Felix is a retired art gallery owner, who still sells the occasional seven-figure painting here and there and sports the casually rumpled look of a man of wealth and taste as he glides around the world. 

When Laura expresses her suspicions about Dean to her dad, Felix sees it as the opportunity for a fun caper. As he and Laura will tail Dean around town and even go as far as follow him to a company retreat in Mexico, spying on him until they catch him in the act. And that’s it. That’s basically the whole movie. Even at 1 hour and 37 minutes, “On the Rocks” isn’t trying to go for a complex storyline of slamming doors and arguments. Laura has to contemplate whether or not her husband is unfaithful, while examining her own life, her priorities and her relationship with her father.

Laura sees through her womanizing father and is always quick to call him on his bull…, but she always does it with affection and love. Jones and Murray are wonderful together; many if not all of the best scenes, are when it’s just the two of them, verbally fencing. As you’d expect, though Jones is the star of the movie and as Laura she has her showcase moments. Jones is enough of a skilled actor and comic that whenever her and Murray are onscreen together, she becomes the perfect reaction role to Murray’s comedic wits. As for Murray, he effortlessly executes a real movie-star performance. The key ingredient in the chemistry is that Jones is so good an actress that she never allows Murray to steal the show from her. 

Sofia’s film doesn’t share any new insights on the parenting experience, but Coppola creates a vivid understanding of Laura’s fatigue. Laura is caught in a never-ending routine of management while Dean tends to his employment demands, making sure their two children are up and ready in the morning, getting them to school, which involves a parade of meet and greets with other mothers, including Vanessa (Jenny Slate), who blathers on about her personal problems. There are meals to prepare and appointments to keep, with the added pressure of Laura’s work challenges, tasked with creating a new book while suffering from writer’s block. 

Coppola isn’t purposely going for the jokes, she let’s them come naturally and she doesn’t give in to cliché either, instead finding an honest way out of Laura’s dilemma, using the art of communication that’s lost in so many marriages. “On the Rocks” keeps the writer and director on her creative ground. She’s not replicating “Lost in Translation”, but simply returning to a place of sensitivity and personal distance with a fine actor by her side and the city of New York as becoming a strong sense of the films location. Sofia Coppola continues her streak, as she does some of her best work here.

GRADE: ★★★★☆ (4 out of 5)

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About Aron Medeiros

Aron Medeiros
Aron Medeiros is the movie critic for Maui Watch. He lives on the beautiful island of Maui and is also a member of the elite Hawaii Film Critics Society and an active cast member of the NerdWatch pod cast. He is a 2003 graduate from King Kekaulike High School. His favorite film of all time is “Back To The Future”. He has worked at Consolidated Kaahumanu Theaters for nearly 13 years as a Sales Associate and making his way up to Assistant Manager. He has loved movies since he was a young boy, where his Grandfather started his love for the movies.

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