Bill Murray, weapons set to charm, might be top-billed, but Rashida Jones is the main attraction in Sofia Coppola’s understated father-daughter comedy On the Rocks (★★★☆☆). Jones is warmly appealing as New Yorker Laura, a somehow chill yet neurotic writer struggling with her latest book, and with the itching suspicion that her tech bro husband Dean is cheating with his hot new “accounts manager.”
Dean is played by the adventurous choice of Marlon Wayans, who tries to make this unlikely screen pairing work by dialing back his usually manic persona to something that reads as generically enthusiastic. Dean’s not that deep, but the film — which progresses in a few swift edits from their skinny-dipping honeymoon to married with one kid in grade school and another in a stroller — sells Laura and Dean as a love worth saving. So, why can’t or won’t Laura just talk to Dean about her suspicions, and work out what’s truly nagging at her and stalling her creative output?
Enter her father, Felix (Murray), an incorrigible ladies’ man and frequently absentee parent, who pops in just in time to stoke the fire of Laura’s growing mistrust. Felix takes it upon himself to suss out whether Dean’s a cheater, since it takes one to know one. Uncertain of her own judgment, Laura can’t get Felix to call off his investigation, so she joins him. And the movie lifts off like Murray’s buoyant performance, as the two zip around town in Felix’s classic red convertible chasing clues, and downing martinis and caviar. They’re rich, you see? Felix is a former art gallerist who now gallivants between world capitals dealing Hockneys, coveting Twomblys.
Coppola’s characters inhabit a world of hipster wealth that a viewer might easily register as autobiographical. The film’s witty comments on privileged culture — see Laura’s uber-self-absorbed pal Vanessa (Jenny Slate) — certainly seem pointed. Also, knowing that the filmmaker’s dad is Oscar-winner Francis and that Jones’ real-life dad is Grammy-winning legend Quincy would suggest even more compelling subtext to the laidback father-daughter repartee, but who knows really? The detective adventure suffices for plot here. And the meat on the bone is the easy, layered rapport between Jones and Murray, as a questioning child and the parent who has an answer for everything except for why he is the way he is.
On the Rocks will be released on Friday, October 23 for streaming on AppleTV+. Visitwww.appletv.com.
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André Hereford covers arts and entertainment for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @here4andre.
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