By Jess Fenton
27th September 2020

In this new world order, when it comes to film distribution it should seem strange that the latest instalment in Sophia Coppola's lexicon is being released on a subscription streaming service, yet here we are. Free from CGI set pieces and superpowers, Coppola's works are primed for at home viewing, but it's this purist's opinion that one Sir Bill Murray does not belong on the small screen. And in the hands of frequent collaborator Ms Coppola, Murray is anything but a small character. Luckily for Australian audiences, you're going to get the choice of how you view this comedy legend.

In 'On The Rocks' Laura (Rashida Jones, 'I Love You, Man') is a New York mother of two struggling to find her groove to write her new book, while recently becoming a work widow to her husband Dean (Marlon Waynes, 'White Chicks') and his blossoming new business. Perhaps simply in a rut, her looming 39th birthday, or Dean's hot, young new assistant, doubt starts to set in as to her husband's fidelity, a notion exasperated by her philandering, lithario father Felix (Bill Murray, 'Lost in Translation'). Felix seizes the opportunity for adventure and for the pair to spend some quality time together spying on Dean while he teaches Laura the ways of the male over many, many cocktails.


In both a positive and not so positive way, this is Murray's film. Felix is a terrific character, and Murray comes alive in his childlike playfulness, charm and charisma. Unfortunately, it's a combination of both Felix and Murray's brightness that relegates Laura/Jones to the background, even though this is her story. I so much wanted Laura to shine. I knew she was more that just what we were being shown, and I found it endlessly frustrating that Rashida wasn't giving us more. I couldn't help but feel that this role was a little too far outside Jones' wheelhouse. Rashida manifests the Laura she fears she's become - boring and perfunctory, void of inspiration. She has taken the words on the paper and put them on screen. But here's where we discover the difference between a good actor and a great one: in another's hands, we could have been shown this Laura while all the while knowing the old one was still in there somewhere, screaming to come out. Sadly, it's the 2D version we're presented with on screen.

I've always likened Coppola's work to that jazz adage - it's the notes you don't play that matter.

As far as the film goes, it felt like a diluted Sophia Coppola. I've always likened Coppola's work to that jazz adage - it's the notes you don't play that matter. Coppola's subtext, text, and multifaceted characters have always shone, even in silence - but in 'On The Rocks', I was hungry for the dialogue between a wise yet boyish father and his vulnerable yet solid and forgiving daughter to crack me up, make me cry, make me ponder. What I got was just an entrée, with no main meal to follow and satisfy. There are some great lines and witty back-and-forth that peters out just as I thought it was about to take off.

Perhaps my expectations were too high, but I wanted so much more than the product we ended up with here. While I enjoyed 'On The Rocks', I can't push myself past saying it was simply cute and sweet - and while it bolstered my love of Bill Murray just a little further, for Rashida Jones it just made me shrug.

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