Movie Review: On the Rocks

By Ben Lindner, Contributor
[A24/Apple TV+; 2020]
Rating: 6/10

I’m not sure I watched On the Rocks properly. I watched it on my couch on a Wednesday morning, but I feel like it was intended for middle-aged wine moms who, after finally putting their kids to bed, are just waiting to scream “OMG, that’s so true” every time the movie shows how hard marriage is. Outside of that lens, this movie, while functional, is not able to do anything particularly remarkable.

Read more: Movie Review: The Trial of the Chicago 7

On the Rocks is the latest from writer and director Sofia Coppola, and it stars Rashida Jones as Laura, a middle-aged mom who drinks wine after putting her kids to bed and thinks “OMG, that’s so true” when she watches Chris Rock make jokes about how hard marriage is. The film focuses on her reconnection with her dad (Bill Murray) as they suspect her husband (Marlon Wayans) is cheating on her.

Let’s get this out of the way first: Murray is good in this movie. He’s charming, and the best part of every scene he’s in. The thing is, it’s nothing he has not done before. While his performance is good, he falls short of the nonsense and hijinx implicitly promised by his character. He’s framed as a wild, eccentric character, but this is never really strongly conveyed, whether by Murray or the script.

The movie seems to want to be about hijinx but fails to deliver on them. Laura and her father do some sort of crazy things—talking themselves out of a ticket, tailing her husband, etc.—but the tone and the writing don’t convey these things with the whimsy it feels like it needs. The humor produces small chuckles at best, which may be the intent, but the dower tone causes any of the potential fun of the movie to be kept in check.

It feels like the movie wants to be big, with interwoven ideas through its different conflicts. However, with only 97 minutes of runtime, this does not quite work out. The film’s three plotlines—Laura struggling to write her book, her suspecting her husband of cheating and her reconnecting with her father—are all resolved at once, as though they are all interrelated, but the film fails to portray them as such. Each element fundamentally works, but the movie feels like it wishes they came together transcendently.

While there are some audiences who could get a lot out of this movie, and everyone will probably get a little, On the Rocks promises more than it ends up being: a perfectly average drama that falls just a bit short.

Watch the trailer here:

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