On the Rocks: What to Do When Relationships Seem to Be Going Bottoms Up

I swear, if you end up hurting Ann Perkins!!!

Those were some of my initial thoughts as I watched Sofia Coppola’s latest directorial effort, On the Rocks.

You see, actress Rashida Jones is so gosh darn likable in her role as the aforementioned Ann in the NBC comedy, Parks and Recreation, and it is no different here. You can’t help but feel fiercely protective of her.

This time around, Jones plays Laura, a woman with a lot on her mind. She’s trying to raise her two kids while simultaneously writing a book. Her husband, Dean (Marlon Wayons), is perpetually absent, darting in and out of the household as he attempts to get a tech company startup off the ground along with a handful of colleagues, including, most notably to Laura, the beautiful and forward Fiona (Jessica Henwick).

Laura becomes increasingly preoccupied with the central question of the story: Is Dean cheating on Laura?

Her father, Felix (Bill Murray) seems to think so. And he has a long life full of womanizing experience to draw on as he presents his case and tries to help her “think like a man.” So she reluctantly gives in to his schemes of finding out and a series of misadventures follow!

You can’t go deaf to women’s voices…. you better start figuring out how to hear them.

– Laura, On the Rocks

Laura and Felix’s mission to discover the truth take them across Manhattan, uptown parties, the local hotspots, but ultimately the heart of the journey lies in her facing up to their own complicated father-daughter relationship.

This exchange between Laura and her father illustrates the tension:

Laura: I am sick of you taking over everything, making it all about you and what you want all the time. What you dragged us all through. You pushed Mom away. You can’t go deaf to women’s voices. You know that, right? You have daughters and granddaughters, so you better start figuring out how to hear them. You pushed Mom away. You wanna push us away too?

Murray, as often is the case, gives an audience-pleasing performance. This is his third collaboration with Coppola, after Lost in Translation and the A Very Murray Christmas holiday special. She seems to have this knack for bringing out the best in him. Perhaps we can say she is the Murray Whisperer?!

While this film isn’t exactly breaking new cinematic ground, it’s well worth a view just for the scenes shared between Jones and Murray, They enjoy tremendous chemistry.

The conclusion, while satisfying, does feel a little rushed. The film is only 96 minutes and could have easily benefited from an extra half hour.

Talk to Me

Of course, as is the case in so many films, so much could have been avoided and solved if central characters would, you know, talk to one another, and willing to ask questions. But stories need something to help drive conflict, tension or mystery, so concessions must be made.

Needless to say, communication is vital to any healthy relationship! So, why do we, like Laura, sometimes find ourselves paralyzed when we know we have to confront those we love with the tough questions and hard conversations? No doubt because we may be trying to protect ourselves or a misguided belief we are protecting those we love from hurt.

The idea of confronting some potential truths can feel like too much to bear, so… we sometimes just don’t. It’s easier to don’t. But easier doesn’t always mean better.

Here is the thing about paralysis. We can’t move. And it’s hard to keep a relationship alive if you aren’t feeding it properly.

Origin Story

In the film, Laura is forced to confront her past and how her father’s choices and behaviors have shaped her own attitudes towards relationships and insecurities. This is called family of origin issues. It is not uncommon to carry childhood hurts and traumas into adulthood and important to explore and understand it.

Jesuit Social Services (JSS) offers some helpful strategies in family of origin work. The organization suggests:

  1. Drawing a family Genogram. This helps to think about different family members and what themes have come up over the course of your upbringing. JSS recommends the following questions as guidance: How do different family members operate in relationships? What roles did you and other family members play in your family? What are the good attributes and qualities you have taken away from your family experience and what are the negative qualities you may have taken away? How differentiated are various family members?
  2. Think broadly. What are some of the social, cultural, environmental, and economic issues that have helped shape you from both your current family and previous generations?
  3. Consider what influence your family of origin issues carries into your relationships, particularly with young people.
  4. Is there someone you feel comfortable exploring your family of origin with?

CLICK HERE to access an online tool for creating your own Genogram.

Intervention!

It’s easy to fall into the trap of, “hey, we’ve got this. No need to drag anybody else into our problems.” But the truth is that sometimes we could all use a little outside intervention. And, as the movie expertly illustrates, not from a Felix-type!

If your marriage is on the rocks, consider marital counseling. The earlier, the better. Don’t wait. If your spouse isn’t into the idea, go by yourself.

Surprised? You shouldn’t be! This is a self care blog, after all. So you will hear me push the suggestion of therapy over… and over… and over…. and over…. and over…

Hey, just like another classic Bill Murray movie (It’s Groundhog Dayyyyyyyyy)!!

Let’s Move

To recap:

  • Communication! Keep feeding your relationships and ask the tough questions.
  • Make a Genogram and consider family or origin issues.
  • Don’t write off marital counseling as a source of healing.

How to Watch

On the Rocks is available for streaming on the Apple TV Plus platform.

What did you learn from Bill Murray’s latest? Do you have any helpful suggestions that have strengthened your own relationships? Share in the comments below!

On the Rocks (2020)

Director: Sofia Coppola

Screenwriter: Sofia Coppola

Cast: Bill Murray, Rashida Jones, Marlon Wayans, Jennie Slate, Jessica Henwick

Rated: R (Some language, sexual references)

Comments

  1. Unwanted Life

    For the most part, you can choose your family, you just can’t choose your blood relatives.

    Communication is key to every relationship we have, but it’s most important with your romantic partner, that’s for sure. If you can’t talk to each other, then you need to figure out a way to start

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  2. Natascha

    Absolutely loved this post! I love that you are taking inspiration from this movie to create lessons and advice on how to have and maintain a healthy relationship! Looking forward to read more from you!

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