On the Rocks
**** When your second film is a universe of compassion, wit and wonderment, it’s not easy for the rest of your career to keep up. Yet On the Rocks is one of the most intelligent and moving films that writer-director Sofia Coppola has made since her transcendent Tokyo odyssey Lost in Translation. It’s the kind of movie that gets you guessing about what a great director is up to, then surprises and pleases you when she doesn’t go where you imagined. On the Rocks stars Rashida Jones as Laura, a writer who suspects that her husband, Dean (Marlon Wayans), is cheating on her. Since Laura’s father, Felix (Bill Murray), is eager for an excuse to spy on his son-in-law, the two embark on a shambling investigation of Dean, which culminates in a surreal sojourn in Mexico. Murray suavely sells the contradictions of Felix, a decrepit playboy who defends his daughter’s honor but delights in demeaning women. Felix can be a mesmerizingly phony charmer, but On the Rocks is about Laura awakening to the emptiness behind his incandescence—an awakening that sets the stage for her spiritual rebirth. That journey may not match the visual and emotional heights of Lost in Translation, but On the Rocks triumphs on its own terms by telling the story of a woman who, scene by scene, gradually claims the movie as her own. R. BENNETT CAMPBELL FERGUSON. Apple TV+.

Sound of Metal

** If a noisecore drummer loses his hearing, should anyone care? Sound of Metal presents a remarkably empathetic portrait of that rare beast—the working hardcore percussionist committed to sobriety and a girlfriend/bandmate—yet shows just a taste of the goodish life Ruben (Riz Ahmed) and Lou (Olivia Cooke) share while touring in a cozy Airstream before his sudden loss of hearing tears their plans asunder. While the plotline might seem eerily similar to the 2004 indie flick It's All Gone Pete Tong, this story isn't about punishing hubris. Ruben, unlike Pete Tong's superstar DJ, has already dealt with his substance-abuse issues at the film's start, and he tries his damnedest to embrace the silence suggested by deaf guru Joe (Paul Raci) at a cultish American Sign Language camp. Unable to abandon his eterna-gigging life plans, our hero neither hears nor listens to the increasingly gloomy diagnoses en route to affording the semblance of hearing promised by cochlear implants, which prove a maddeningly false tease. This directorial debut from The Place Beyond the Pines screenwriter Darius Marder exploits next-gen soundcraft and Ahmed's electric vapidity to its best advantage while ignoring moralistic conventions, but there's a troubling condescension pegged to the protagonist's chosen genre and instrument. Would a talented singer-songwriter be so blithely expected to accept medical practicalities rather than further damaging health in pursuit of doomed passions? Would Beethoven? At the end of the day, this is an expertly crafted labor of love championing the abandonment of dreams. What's the sound of one hand clapping? R. JAY HORTON.  Amazon Prime.