Yes, the pandemic has been awful for cinema. A lot of big movies have been pushed off into Whatever Land as far as their release dates—and here in Riverside County, indoor theaters are closed again due to increasing COVID-19 cases, after being open for just a few weeks.
But even before this all started, there was a significant push for smaller, artier films to find their way to streaming services, rather than going all-in on a theatrical release. That trend has continued over the last year, with Amazon, Netflix, Apple TV, and Disney+ either streaming films exclusively, or streaming them along with limited theatrical releases.
The latest example of this is On the Rocks, which enjoyed a limited theatrical release before quickly making its way to Apple TV+.
The film has Bill Murray and writer/director Sofia Coppola joining forces again—which raises expectations, because their Lost in Translation is one of the more beautiful films to come out of Hollywood in the last 30 years. In On the Rocks, Murray plays Felix, the rich father of Laura (Rashida Jones); Laura is a New Yorker and author with writer’s block and a busy, almost-never-home husband, Dean (the ever-reliable Marlon Wayans, in a nice dramatic turn).
The film is nicely written and luscious-looking, two common traits for Sofia Coppola films. It also has that Murray spark; he’s an actor who really shines with Coppola at the helm. Felix and Laura suspect that Dean could be having an affair, which he disguises as work trips and meetings. The father and daughter go on a mission of discovery—in more ways than one. This allows Murray to access the more-devilish side of his acting persona, in both funny and scary ways.
Coppola’s plot twists get a little silly at times, but Murray and Jones are excellent together—and what they put onscreen will have you easily forgiving occasional conventionalities. There are two particular moments of reckoning in this movie that are expertly handled on both sides of the camera.
Yes, there are still great new movies being released during these crazy times—and On the Rocks is certainly one of them.
On the Rocks is now streaming on Apple TV+