Sofia Coppola’s new film “On the Rocks”, which was released on AppleTV+ two months ago, is a lightweight comedy film often buoyed by another entertaining performance from Bill Murray, who has never been boring throughout his long, illustrious acting career. As shown from a number of notable comedy films ranging from “The Ghostbusters” (1984) and “Groundhog Day” (1993) to “Lost in Translation” (2003) and “St. Vincent” (2014), he has been consistently funny or interesting while steadily cultivating his own deadpan persona, and that is effectively utilized here in this film to our delight.
In the movie, Murray plays Felix Keane, a wealthy semi-retired art dealer who happens to come into the life of one of his children again. Although he left his wife and children for some other woman many years ago and has still not given up the carefree lifestyle of a womanizer, he and his writer daughter Laura (Rashida Jones) have been fairly nice and cordial to each other, and she is not that annoyed when her father suddenly comes to New York City just for seeing her and her two kids.
During its first act, the movie mainly focuses on how life seems to be going nowhere for Laura. As her two kids come to need less care and attention from her than before, she finally comes to get more free time for focusing her latest novel, but, alas, her writing process often feels like being stuck in dead end, and she also becomes more unsure about her relationship with her husband Dean (Marlon Wayans). As shown from the opening scene, they were passionately in love when they married under Felix’s sardonic blessing several years ago, but the sparks between them seem to be gone now, and, after noticing a suspicious sign from him at one night, Laura begins to wonder whether her husband has been cheating on her.
When Laura confides her growing suspicion on Dean to her father, Felix only comes to boost her suspicion as talking about how many men are prone to adultery just like him, and he even suggests that they should delve together into this matter for clarifying everything. Laura naturally hesitates at first, but her doubt keeps accumulating as she is reminded of how young and sexy her husband’s new assistant is. Besides, her husband often returns to their home at late night because, according to him, there are many things to be done for his very promising start-up company, so it looks highly possible to Laura that her husband and his assistant are actually having an affair behind their back.
And Felix continues to fuel her suspicion as giving more suspicious signs from her husband. While Dean does not seem to pay much attention to her upcoming birthday, Felix notifies to Laura that Dean seems to be planning to buy something considerably expensive, and Laura comes to suspect Dean more when he later gives her a birthday present which turns out to be far less special in comparison.
As Laura and Felix subsequently become more active in their little private investigation, the movie leisurely rolls from one comic moment to another along with them. In case of a scene where Felix and Laura try to follow after a cab which Dean and his assistant have just got on, we are amused a bit by how Felix sticks to his luxurious lifestyle during their clumsy stakeout, and then we get another small laugh from when they later happen to be stopped by two policemen, who come to help them a bit after Felix talks with one of these two policemen for a while.
In the meantime, Coppola’s screenplay slowly let us understand how its two main characters are driven by each own motive. For Laura, delving into the possibility of her husband’s adultery brings some change and excitement into her rather repetitive daily life, and Coppola, who is no stranger to characters stuck in ennui and insulation as shown from “The Virgin Suicides” (1999) and “Lost in Translation”, did a good job of conveying to us the sense of indirection and suffocation surrounding Laura with some humorous running gags. In case of Felix, he simply wants to spend more time with his daughter despite being your average self-absorbed dude, and there is a little emotional moment when he comes to show a bit more of himself to his daughter later in the story.
The movie comes to lose some of its comic momentum during its last act, but it still has its gentle heart in the right place while carried well by its two main performers. Steadily looking detached as before, Murray deftly balances his character between humor and pathos, and his rich comic performance is complemented well by the no-nonsense acting from Rashida Jones, who is also a good comic performer as shown from TV comedy series “Parks and Recreation”. She and Murray are constantly engaging as they effortlessly interact with each other throughout the film, and they are also supported well by the other main cast members including Jenny Slate and Marlon Wayans, who, in my trivial opinion, gives his most serious performance here since his memorable supporting turn in “Requiem for a Dream” (2000).
On the whole, “On the Rocks” looks less impressive compared to Coppola’s better works including “Lost in Translation”, but it is still enjoyable thanks to Coppola’s competent direction and the good comic chemistry between Murray and Jones. The movie is surely one of funnier films of this year, and it will certainly remind you that Murray is still a treasure to watch as before.
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