Writer & director Sofia Coppola takes a break from serious films and gives audiences something lighthearted in A24’s On the Rocks. Murray portrays Felix, an aging playboy whose daughter Laura (Rashida Jones) has just jumped the broom with the laid back Dean (Marlon Wayans). As the years go by, the couple has two daughters, and Dean becomes a successful businessman and entrepreneur while Laura has regrets that she has yet to follow up on her first successful novel.
After Dean returns home late one night from his latest business trip and attempts to initiate intimacy, Laura subconsciously rebuffs and tries to figure out why and begins to question why her marriage is in a rut. Instead of talking to Dean, she reaches out to Felix (Bill Murray) for advice, who casually puts the idea in her head that Dean may be having an affair.
Through a series of comedic hijinks, Felix & Laura out to prove if Dean is indeed stepping out on his old lady. The film is clearly an acting showcase for Rashida Jones and Bill Murray, and both actors shine in their roles. Whenever the two are on screen sharing dialogue, they bring to life a father/daughter relationship. As I watched the film, I couldn’t help but wonder if director Sofia Coppola based some of the scenarios around her relationship with her father, director Francis Ford Coppola.
Similarly, I also feel that our star Rashida Jones may have thrown in some dialogue from her dealings with her musical icon dad, Quincy Jones. Laura’s role could have been portrayed by anyone, but Jones brings a headstrong and sweet nuisance to the role of a wife and mother approaching forty. Rashida Jones’s strength for me has always been in her facial expressions, which are on full display in the scenes she shares with Vanessa (Jenny Slate), a boisterous woman who regularly informs Laura about a liaison with a married man during a Hurricane.
At the age of seventy, Bill Murray is still one of the masters of dry wit, and it’s on full display in On the Rocks. Reuniting with his Lost in Translation and A Very Murray Christmas director, Murray gives his best performance since 2014’s St. Vincent. Sofia Coppola could’ve easily catered to casual filmgoers and made Murray’s character a dirty old man caricature. Instead, she portrays Felix has a man successful in life and business but lacking in relationships. One of my favorite Murray scenes involves Felix using his gab gift to talk his way out of a ticket, and it’s the perfect contrast for a scene where he interacts with Marlon Wayans’s Dean.
During the scene with Dean, it appears that Felix knows that Dean is a better man than he was at that age. While both men are successful, Felix knows that he could never juggle success and family the way Dean has. Coppola doesn’t push the scene far or have the two engage in a testosterone stare down, but it’s a great moment between Murray and Wayans. Sadly these moments are in between for Wayans.
Since his amazing dramatic turn in 2000’s Requiem for a Dream, I’ve anticipated Marlon going full-on dramatic in a film. While On the Rocks finds Wayans laid back and straight-laced, I wished that Coppola would’ve given him some more time to show his dramatic range. I think this is the first film I’ve seen Wayans do where he doesn’t crack a joke.
With a brief run time of ninety-seven minutes, not a ton happens in On the Rocks. If you want a laugh out loud comedy, the film isn’t your cup of tea. Nevertheless, with great performances from its cast, I recommend the movie for fans of dry wit and heavy dialogue-driven films.
Final Grade C+
On the Rocks is streaming exclusively on Apple TV+