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On the Rocks (2020)—Can Lightning Strike Twice for Sofia Coppola?

In 2003, Sofia Coppola, daughter of acclaimed film director Francis Ford Coppola, directed Lost in Translation starring Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson. The film was met with major critical and box office success, with an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. Later in 2020, Sofia Coppola came out with another film, On the Rocks with Bill Murray returning.

Laura (played by Rashida Jones) is a writer and young wife and mother of two kids. She suspects that her husband, Dean (played by Marlon Wayans), is having an affair behind her back with a co-worker, Fiona (played by Jessica Henwick) after finding a women’s toiletries bag in his suitcase. Dean claims that Fiona didn’t have room in her suitcase, so he carried it back for her, but Laura doesn’t believe him. She confides her suspicions with her father, Felix (played by Bill Murray). Felix tells her that Dean is cheating on her with Fiona and helps her gather evidence of his apparent infidelity. When hearing that Dean would go to a business trip to a Mexican resort, Laura and Felix follow them, only to find out that Dean is nowhere to be seen. Laura returns home and shares her suspicions with Dean and the two make up.

Compared to Lost in Translation, On the Rocks doesn’t quite live up to its legacy, having less likable characters compared to the former. However, the overall structure of the film is similar, focusing on an aspect of life that most people go through. Rashida Jones and Bill Murray give excellent performances and Marlon Wayans was almost unrecognizable in this film. I had only seen him in Dungeons and Dragons and the Scary Movie franchise, so it was a surprise when I saw his name on the cast. Sofia Coppola uses many still frame shots of ordinary objects to further accentuate the film’s dramatic storytelling and helps give audiences an insight into the minds of the film’s characters.

A couple things about On the Rocks I didn’t really enjoy were primarily with Laura’s decision-making and Bill Murray’s character. To me, Laura wasn’t really a likable character and I never got the impression why she chose to ask Felix for relationship advice when she knew that he had questionable views on marriage and relationships. Speaking of Felix, this has got to be one of Bill Murray’s least likable roles in his career. He comes off as a slime ball, especially how he views women, wanting to sleep with every young woman he comes into contact with, while being old enough to be their grandpa. Honestly, I felt uncomfortable watching his scenes, to the point where I felt like fast forwarding through his scenes. Lastly, I briefly mentioned this in my Weekend Healer review, but the resolution of the main conflict was a complete letdown. Sofia Coppola missed a chance to show the true consequences of distrust in a relationship by not showing Laura and Dean go through the hard work of mending their relationship. Rather, the film just cuts to the next day and everything being completely resolved.

All-in-all, Sofia Coppola’s On the Rocks is one of her weaker films. Compared to Lost in Translation, the overall story is weaker and the characters are less likable. On top of all that, while Lost in Translation had one of the most iconic endings in film history, On the Rocks had one of the least memorable and disappointing endings I’ve seen. I understand that Sofia Coppola wanted a happy ending, but it would’ve felt more deserved if we see the characters argue before mending things. For me to fully enjoy this film, I’d have to order a glass of Scotch, on the rocks.

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