Rashida Jones’s character, Laura, seems destined to be a reflection of Sofia Coppola: a raved artist turned busy parent, someone on a writer’s block for exciting ideas, and a virtuoso who’s experienced the turmoil of dying relationships before. Laura is pushing 40, slowly molding into the housewife stereotype while, in chorus, finding out her husband has a new, young, hot co-worker; it’s undeniable that Laura feels insecure about her current life-frame. One day, she begins suspecting that her husband is sleeping with another woman, and the skeptical barrier between Laura and him that begins to incrementally cultivate only seems to sway her more. Laura’s brain is running through the classic conversations on the science of lustful men, her dad there to support and expose these ideas, ultimately leading Laura under the wing of this protective father of her’s once more. Coppola may be going through a midlife crisis herself as of now, and it oozes thematically in On the Rocks, but it seems as if her once legendary talent is becoming abandoned with it — coincidentally like our main character at stake.
It’s mind-blowing witnessing just how feeble the acting direction can sometimes be in this A24 release amongst someone who has made seamlessly performed films such as Lost in Translation and Marianne Antoinette. In fact, technical deficiencies seem to periodically plague On the Rocks; they begin causing this final output to appear like a rough draft and not a completed project — an obtrusive example of this can be viewed during the flick’s abrupt car chase scene that is just pieced together so brokenly. It’s sad to see too that thanks to the film’s cookie-cutter plot, the customary yet potential-driven premise, in the fullness of time, carried out exactly as one would expect. The comedy is frankly hit or miss, as well, some gags land appropriately and others feel dependent on forced charisma. Fortunately, this is a decent-looking project compared to something such as Coppola’s The Bling Ring. Rashida Jones and especially Bill Murray are furthermore so dedicated within the bounds of Coppola’s characters that it kills me to see them not partnering their gifts in a motion picture with a more arresting diegesis. The movie almost had me hooked whenever they were on screen, but when the plot did something unsophisticated again to give these two another excuse to drink expensive wine over a gender theory discussion, the effect just became wearisome real quick.
There’s definitely glimpses of the intelligent flair that Sofia Coppola is known for in her latest feature-length, notably in fragments of the dialogue she’s deposited out here. Above that though it seems as if her projects are beginning to blend in undetectably with the rest of Hollywood’s mediocre outputs. On the Rocks is a dram-com contrived to sprint down as many formulaic directions as possible while culminating itself with convenient ties and fantasy-driven bowknots to level with the contemporary, leaving others questioning the latter demanding, topical factors that are curiously posed yet eventually left unfleshed and forgotten by the end. The Apple TV exclusive is hefted in quality at least by a selection of memorable Coppola lines inspired by familiar gender philosophies, and the two solid performances do add merit as well.
Yet, is that enough to please all of those who have been following Sofia Coppola’s lead for these past few decades? Do I, personally, expect much more coming from such a directorial talent? Kind of.
“On the Rocks” will be available to stream on Apple TV, October 23rd.