Mumblecore is a term used for a film that uses an excess amount of dialogue to carry a viewer from start to finish. Whether you’re talking about a Richard Linklater film like DAZED AND CONFUSED (1993) (which is what he’s best known for) or an indie comedy like DRINKING BUDDIES (2013), this term is thrown around a lot. Sometimes used to dive deep into a character’s psyche or simply because the writer wanted to have a lengthy conversation linger on for a while, there are many ways of explaining mumblecore films. The reason I felt the need to explain that term for those who haven’t heard it before, is due to the fact that I’m obsessed with this type of filmmaking/writing and loved watching ON THE ROCKS (2020) for that reason alone. Here’s why I believe ON THE ROCKS, although pretty bare-bones in terms of complexity, is one of the better films of 2020 so far.
After thinking her husband Dean (Marlon Wayans) is acting suspiciously with one of his co-workers, Laura (Rashida Jones) decides to reconnect with her father (Bill Murray). He then sides with her and makes a huge effort to prove whether or not her husband is being loyal to her. At its core, ON THE ROCKS is a fun little New York City adventure flick that has Rashida Jones and Bill Murray stalking Marlon Wayans. From lengthy conversations to heartfelt moments between spouses and family, this film had me invested from the very beginning. It also doesn’t hurt that this film is all about the performances of Jones and Murray because their chemistry here is terrific.
Written and directed by Sofia Coppola, this isn’t her first outing that included Bill Murray in a significant role. LOST IN TRANSLATION (2003) is easily my favorite film she has ever done and that film involved Bill Murray, so it only seems natural that I think her second-best film might just be ON THE ROCKS. I enjoyed her efforts in both SOMEWHERE (2010) and THE BLING RING (2013) very much, but nothing ever seemed to come close to the precision that came from her in Lost in Translation. I think that’s why I enjoyed ON THE ROCKS so much. I felt hints of LOST IN TRANSLATION trying to come out, but this overall film was too restrained for it to be as thought-provoking as that one.
Look, this film is predictable from start to finish and for that reason, it may seem like the film went nowhere to some viewers, but I just loved spending time with these characters. If a film can suck you in with the characters on-screen, it’s already done a great job. The “stuck in his ways” lines of dialogue that Bill Murray is given only deepened my love for the character and made him more authentic to a man of his age in today’s day. On top of that, Rashida Jones played off his quips with easy and I completely bought her rendition of an overly stressed woman with a father like this. Even though some of the dialogue might feel overwritten due to how much of it there truly is, I just enjoyed the short little journey this film took me on.
Overall, ON THE ROCKS isn’t going to win any awards, but if there was an Oscars category for movies that make you smile, this film might just take that one for 2020. I was grinning from ear to ear throughout the majority of the run time. I would almost say that the core story is about a father reconnecting with his daughter, even though the film suggests on multiple occasions that it’s about whether or not Laura’s husband is cheating on her. I also just want to add that I have really enjoyed Marlon Wayans lately. His last few performances have been outside of his wacky comedic routes and I feel that he actually has some really strong dramatic talents lingering around somewhere. I thoroughly, thoroughly enjoyed ON THE ROCKS and if you’re interested in checking it out too, it’s now streaming on Apple TV+.