Sofia Coppola's latest doesn't live up to her previous work but if you're a fan of Bill Murray, prepare to tuck in.
As someone who thinks liking A24 films is a personality trait, Apple TV’s multi-year deal with the production house had me very excited. Mixing my favourite Coppola into it (yes, I said it, sue me) got me to actually buy a subscription to Apple TV in anticipation. In a nutshell, Sofia Coppola’s latest feature On The Rocks is very much like a buffet. You’re guaranteed not to be disappointed as long as you know what you want from it. If, like me, you wish you could crawl into Coppola’s eye and skip through her and Phillippe Le Sourd’s visual partnership, then you’ll be snacking with satisfaction. I could write a short novel on different shades of pink in Coppola’s work… no-one would read it but it would sit well with my spirit. If you love Bill Murray and you want to watch him whistle in and out of scenes, then prepare to chow down. However, if you know you want the satisfying, tiered, well-arced creaminess of Tiramisu and you go in thinking you’re going to get it, prepare to be disappointed.
Here’s how the story goes: Laura (Rashida Jones) is stuck in a rut. She can’t seem to start her manuscript and her husband Dean (Marlon Wayans) is distracted and busy with work. Her father Felix, (Mr. Whistlin’ charm Bill Murray) convinces her that Dean is cheating, and the majority of the film is spent in kind of enacting a buddy cop detective film as they tail after Dean in a cat-and-mouse chase. Apart from the painfully outdated male to female relationships expressed without a punchline – Laura genuinely asks her father ‘how to keep the desirability to a man’- you could class the film as a comedy-drama but it’s more like a comedy that’s not that funny and a drama that’s not that dramatic. Instead of pulling from both genres, it’s as insecure as its main character.
Let’s take a deeper dive to prove that I was a bright-eyed Tiramisu who’s a searching Coppola and A24 enthusiast.
About halfway through, Laura and Bill Murray (I know his character’s name is Felix but it’s also just not) speed around New York in a vintage red convertible snacking on Caviar and tailing Dean to try and catch him in the act. Bill runs a red light and they get stopped by the cops. Practically skipping out of the car, Bill talks to the officer for half a minute and, miraculously, it just so happens that he knows the Sergeant’s father, and then the two police men push the car to get it started and help the father-daughter pair on their merry way! This scene shows two very specific flaws that this film wilts under. Firstly, there are no consequences for anything. In a major city in a major state, Bill runs a red light and speeds with an open bottle of alcohol. The policemen see it, reprimand him just to wave him off with a *white rich old man privilege* handkerchief? Secondly, there’s no depth or facets to characters that we’re meant to be more than invested in by this point in the film. You’re telling me that Laura is married to a black man and raising black daughters, but she doesn’t even blink about a situation that should hit her a little closer to home? Wouldn’t that help give her the dimensions she’s so desperately craving in this film?
We all know that Sofia Coppola films are about microcosms; the dust-mite moments in life delicately, unapologetically given time and air. So, where’s the lingering, unbearably sweet sadness of the Virgin Suicides? Where’s the eye-gasmic fest of the criminally under-rated Marie Antoinette? Or the beautifully haunting white moving figures of The Beguiled? I’m not going to tell you if Dean was cheating or not because, honestly, it doesn’t matter. Laura ends the film pretty much how she starts it, just with a new watch, more makeup and a whistlin’ tune on her lips.
From the outset, it looked so good, but I’ll keep searching for my Tiramisu.
On the Rocks, directed by Sofia Coppola, is distributed in the UK via A24, and is available to stream on Apple TV+. Certificate 12.