In her latest outing in the welcoming upper town lanes and streets of bustling New York, writer-director Sofia Coppola delivers a conversational set-piece that, at once, says a lot while remaining a quiet reflection on relationships that evolve and devolve over time.
Laura Keane (Rashida Jones) is the focal point of On The Rocks, as her marriage to rising entrepreneur Dean (Marlon Wayans) settles into a routine of managing two adorable children, their school timings and needs, and running into other mothers as she rushes her own to class. That sense of social run-ins and seemingly insignificant gossip interface, in hindsight, now loom like a fantasy in the face of an endless pandemic, and these scenes emanate a salve and succor for you to bask in. But Laura’s existence is slowly wrapping itself in ennui. Her much-vaunted self-glorious goal of writing a book doesn’t seem to be going anywhere — despite a to-die-for-study that stood out for me in these tiresome work-and-wok-from-home times — and her marriage is stuck in a rut that fairy tale endings don’t account for: dreary alarms, offsprings’ howls and fights that lead to coitus interruptus, and a general sense of dispiritedness. Add to it Dean’s popular and dashing cut with his office folks, that stands out in stark contrast to Laura’s self-effacing and low-profile dressing and social skills, and that stunning, gregarious woman in his office, Fiona (Jessica Henwick) who seems to be calling him at odd (and even) hours, setting the stage for niggling doubt and insecurity.
Enter Laura’s father, Felix Keane (Bill Murray), who’s obviously well-to-do, well-connected, and has a keen eye and way with women. It’s not very clear what he does — sell art, yes — but how he goes about sweeping women and dogged cops off their heels and badges, as the case may be, makes for an entertaining case for us and more eye-roll for Laura. She views his shenanigans with a jaundiced eye and his Google-like knowledge on everything from reproduction to infidelity to cave-man history as unadulterated malarkey. But she’s forced to go with his dashing ways as she gets more and more suspicious of Dean.
There are no villains in Coppola’s world and she treats NYC with the same fondness and lends a similar nostalgic touch as Woody Allen does, but there’s no neuroses here. It’s a sigh of life’s wearisome worries that hangs over Laura and Rashida Jones wears it like an incandescent crown through her sterling performance. Plus, if you, like me, delight in watching classy design and subtle sheen, Anne Ross’s production design works wondrously to add to the movie’s look and scenes, a mahogany-like warmth that seeps from the screen into your being. The dialogues, especially between Jones and Murray are a snapping delight, and plaster a happy smile on your mug for most of the movie’s short and sweet predictable arc and runtime. And yet, if you care, there’s a look at father-daughter relationships that bubbles beneath the bubbly. The partner in a woman’s life needn’t be a father figure, but how long before the father begins to realize that it’s time to let go? That, despite his self-admitted tone-deafness towards women, Felix dotes on his daughter so much, he thinks he’s gotten her figured out. Not realizing he’s gone deaf and blind to her wants and needs too, and that she needs to have her own life and adventure.
And wrapping all of the movie around his fabulous countenance is Bill Murray. The actor chirps right into the movie, his usual woebegone radiation replaced by a smooth-talker, an act where when his character’s faced with an uncomfortable question, looks at something outside the frame as if looking for life’s cue board to choose the right answer. Murray steals the show and your heart in a fell, neat gulp of a drink swoop. He emanates such genuine paternal and grand-paternal love, he melts you in a jiffy.
The movie’s title is a descriptor both for tumultuous relationships and how some prefer to bend the elbow. Bill Murray’s like fine single malt — age a plus for both — and in these troubled times, his act’s the perfect libation to lubricate all the noisy joints in your rocky relationships. With or without the gin and tonic.Movie data powered by IMDb. All images owned by the producers.
On The Rocks is streaming on Apple TV and is rated A — really? —(For Adults Only) for cuss words and mild sensuality.
On The Rocks
Director Sofia Coppola Time 1h 36min
Writer Sofia Coppola
Stars Bill Murray, Rashida Jones, Marlon Wayans
Genres Adventure, Comedy, Drama