Sofia Coppola scrapes the bottom of the pretentious barrel in her latest turn as writer and director. On The Rocks has a wealthy Manhattanite succumbing to her aging lothario father’s misgivings about her marriage. The plot of a poorly written sitcom is stretched like taffy into a vapid character study. The result is a painfully slow and uninteresting slog into the lives of urban elites. An attempted discourse on the nature of monogamy lands with a thud. On The Rocks is a big disappointment from start to finish.
Rashida Jones stars as Laura, a wife, mother to two young girls, and writer struggling to finish her latest book. Her husband, Dean (Marlon Wayans), has an exciting career as a successful entrepreneur. He travels frequently with a cadre of attractive assistants. Laura is especially jealous of the beautiful Fiona (Jessica Henwick). She’s become increasingly wary of Dean’s late work nights and business trips with her.
Bill Murray co-stars as Felix, Laura’s playboy father who waxes philosophical on all aspects of the fairer sex. A notorious womanizer, he’s convinced Dean is cheating on his beloved daughter. Felix stokes Laura’s paranoia until she’s a willing accomplice to spy on her husband. The father daughter duo go to extreme lengths to catch Dean in the act.
On The Rocks has molasses drip pacing. The film focuses an inordinate amount of time on Laura’s daily life. She’s a dutiful mother who shepherds her kids from school to playdates. Ignoring the inanities of fellow well-to-do wives and their vain obsessions. She sits blankly at her computer with writer’s block. Simmering in self-doubt while living in material comfort. These scenes are then followed by laughably gaudy, upper-crust hobnobbing. Felix and Laura drink fancy cocktails, eat caviar on a stakeout, and attend gallery parties while discussing men’s inability to be faithful. It’s a dog and pony show filled with pompous characters.
The relationship at the center of this Apple TV+ original is flawed, unbelievable, and borderline offensive. Bill Murray is neither charming or witty as the lecherous Felix. He’s an unrepentant cheater who flirts like a horny teenager in the presence of his daughter. Then has the arrogance to babble incessantly about the traits of a good woman. It’s impossible to believe that Laura would spend any time around this man. Or trust his instincts when she has an ostensibly supportive and caring husband. She grew up with a philanderer. Why would she have any faith in her father’s judgment about marriage?
I can’t fathom what appealed to Marlon Wayans about his supporting role. He could have been replaced by a cardboard cutout and no one would notice. This is certainly his tamest performance. Sofia Coppola wastes his comic talent, while straining credulity with every other aspect of this film. There’s nothing funny, endearing, or to be brutally frank, likeable here. On The Rocks is a production of American Zoetrope. It is currently in limited theatrical release from A24 films. It will be available to stream October 23rd on Apple TV+.
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