Director Sofia Coppola delivers her best film since 'Lost in Translation,' which shares more than a few similarities with this new one
Director Sofia Coppola has always had an unfair level of expectations from me over her 21-year career.
In fairness, that will happen when your debut film, 1999’s “The Virgin Suicides,” is very good, and your second film, 2003’s “Lost in Translation,” hints that you may be a generational talent behind the camera.
This lead me to wild anticipation at the announcement of a new Coppola film and generally finding her subsequent films good, if a bit disappointing. I wanted to like “Marie Antoinette” and “The Bling Ring” more than I ultimately did, although they were both fine. The odd divergence of “Somewhere” and the period piece “The Beguiled” just didn’t grab me.
Which brings me to Coppola’s latest, “On the Rocks,” which not only marks her reunion with Bill Murray but is in many ways a sister film to Coppola’s greatest work, “Lost in Translation.”Get news and entertainment delivered to your inbox: Sign up for our daily newsletter
Laura (Rashida Jones) is a New York mom years into her marriage with Dean (Marlon Wayans). In the prologue, we see them on their wedding day, carefree and slipping off to start the honeymoon activities early.
Flash forward a few years and Laura is the embodiment of mom life while also juggling a writing career. (Yes, writers are overrepresented as a career in movies — and I say this as a writer.) Her marriage still seems healthy, just a little … strained. As parenthood will do.
But as suspicions that Dean may not be faithful begin to creep in, Laura’s eccentric, larger-than-life and wealthy father, Felix (Bill Murray), enters the chat.
What strikes me about “On the Rocks” is how personal and real it feels, revisiting a similar vein as “Lost in Translation” and influenced by the years of real life in between. Coppola depicts motherhood in an honest, day-to-day way, as Laura rushes the kids to daycare, gossips with other moms (including a great Jenny Slate) and has her own doubts about herself as she tries to do it all.
Jones is perfectly cast and gives what may be her best performance to date. Her comedic timing remains sharp as always, adding needed levity, but she also conveys a lot of emotion in a restrained performance.
As expected in his big reunion with Coppola, Murray comes in like a wrecking ball. He injects his signature wry comedic timing, particularly in a hilarious scene where he sweet-talks his way out of a ticket after speeding through the New York streets.
But Murray and Jones also hit a truly heartwarming note in the relationship between a father and adult daughter that imbues a gentle sweetness and playfulness.
You could easily say that there’s not much there in terms of the plot of “On the Rocks.” It’s more about a feeling and a vibe, and it’s Coppola’s best revisiting of her best film, because it nails both.