Every relationship has that point where you are so comfortable that you become uncomfortable. In these moments we can either behave rationally, or we can freak out, or we can do anything in between.
With On The Rocks, Sophia Coppola tells a story about a successful Manhattan couple who have reached this point, where despite all their success and comfort, something doesn’t feel quite right. Rashida Jones plays Laura, a successful author and mother of two who is stuck in this rut but. She begins to think there is more going on when her husband Dean (Marlon Wayans) stumbles home from a work trip one night and begins a passionate embrace, only to then seem like maybe she was someone else.
Her suspicions are not without cause, her father Felix (Bill Murray) cheated on her mother and in later life has become a serial philanderer. Laura can’t help wondering if every man is like her father. Felix assumes that every man is exactly like him, and so the adventure begins.
As Laura tells Felix about the things that are going on, Felix filters everything through the prism of his own character and assumes the worst. He convinces Laura to join him in staking out her husband to find out what is going on, and the film becomes a father-daughter detective story of sorts.
Murray, as is usually, shines here as Felix. It’s hard to imagine that he’s actually acting, as Felix suavely moves from restaurant to restaurant, always knowing the staff and always having a word for the women around him. I’m not sure there is a better man for the role of a smooth talker these days, and scenes, where he flirts with a Russian waitress or talks his way out of a speeding ticket, make that abundantly clear.
Rashida Jones feels like inspired casting here, as the daughter of a famous and philandering father (Quincy Jones married her mother, Peggy Lipton, the day after his divorce from his first wife). Her performance is effortless, capturing those feelings of worry, fear, and inadequacy brilliantly as Felix eggs her on.
Marlon Wayans is also excellent here, for the record. His part is small due to all his characters travel, but he’s another of those actors who is so associated with one kind of performance that we sometimes forget that he’s actually quite soulful.
On The Rocks is also beautifully shot, and is a very New York movie, with scenes of a high-speed car chase in a breaking-down Alpha Romeo being the highlight of showing both Bill Murray’s joy and the beauty of the city. It somehow feels like the least Sofia Coppola film of all the Sofia Coppola films in a way. It has less of her directorial voice and style than I remember from previous films.
Still, this exploration of the relationship between a successful daughter and the famous father than paid her way until she could stand on her own feels like a personal one for both herself and Jones. While this version of the story features a lot more wealth than most of us can relate to, the relationship itself is probably one most of us can, and the chemistry between Jones and Murray makes the 90 go down like a glass of Japanese whiskey.
On The Rocks is having a limited in run in theatres right now and will premiere on AppleTV+ this Friday, October 23rd.