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  • Writer's pictureFiona Prior

On the Rocks

Updated: Oct 13, 2020

Last week’s essay was full of mother-love and this week is all about that important relationship we have with our fathers. To be honest, almost every little girl’s first male love is her father ... for obvious reasons. He is that mighty figure who could literally sweep you off your feet, carry you on his shoulders, make scratches better with a kiss, pick up boulders and leap tall buildings ... He is the man that forms your first impression of what all men should be.

Unless she is very unfortunate (and I’m not delving there), a little girl’s idea of a man’s behaviour – and the differences in behaviour of her mother and her father – are gleaned from the perspective of childhood. Immediately, we realise that there is a temporal framing in play around ‘what a man should be’ ... let alone what constitutes a parent from out 21st century perspective.

Sofia Coppola’s ‘On the Rocks’ is an insightful exploration into this relationship and also a charming romp. Bill Murray plays dad Felix. Need I say more?

I love Coppola’s movies, from ‘The Virgin Suicides’ with its sparkly girly-cultured school-yard hearts and unicorn stickers, through ‘Lost in Translation’, ‘Marie Antionette’, and ‘The Beguiled’. Coppola never fails to brings a uniquely female perspective to her works along with an equally female cinematic eye that lights every single frame.

In ‘On the Rocks’, Laura’s father is an incredibly charming philanderer who left her mother and has led a life of affairs and dalliances (and we are not talking about second time lucky here but a lifetime of flings). Unfortunately dad/Felix is an incorrigible player. Of course he dotes on his daughter and Laura (Rashida Jones) loves him with all her heart – they are father and daughter. When Laura begins to suspect that her own husband’s increasingly more frequent business trips may be camouflaging an affair she calls in dad as her expert in the field of infidelity. Dad Felix immediately fuels her suspicions, explaining how men are wired for polygamy, how they cannot control their urges, how any over night work trip is deeply suspicious, and so on and so forth. Worse still, as far as the opinions of her mother, mother-in-law and sister go (they also use Felix as their measure of man), Laura’s suspicions are real.

The relationship between father and daughter in ‘On the Rocks’ is delightful and there are moments of in your face honesty that are enlightening. Dad explains how when the children came along his wife/Laura’s mother stopped looking at him in a certain way and when another woman’s glance contained that longed for spark he was gone. Laura tells father how much it hurt when he left them. She also tells him that his flirting with every woman who comes near him is becoming creepy. They both almost cry when he tells her about the first time he saw her as another person – a look into each other’s eyes as memorable as a glance across a room – even though in this instance one was still in nappies.

And Bill Murray? A number of reviews suggest Bill Murray was made for the role of philandering dad. I felt it was just a little too 'Bill Murray'. I mean, how many dads would bring along caviar and blinis to make the surveillance of a son-in-law who is under suspicion for infidelity 'a fun experience hanging out with her dad' for a troubled daughter? (He also thinks a cuddle and a chocolate Sunday are balm for crying eyes :)

Comedy with some stand-out moments.

Doesn't come near Coppola's 'The Virgin Suicides' of 'Marie Antionette' but a highly enjoyable outing nevertheless.

* Sofia Coppola is daughter of Francis Ford Coppola

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