New from Al and Linda Lerner on Movies and Shakers: On the Rocks

Sofia Coppola whips up a cocktail not as potent as we hoped it would be, but it has some enjoyable moments. Always fun to watch, Bill Murray is a hoot, even when he plays a likable cad. Rashida Jones, as his daughter, is a good foil for his antics while bringing emotion to her role as a frustrated wife, mother and author. They have some moments with cute repartee.

The film starts with  Felix (Murray) giving an order to his daughter, Laura (Jones),  “Don’t give your heart to any boy until you’re married…and you’re still mine.” When Daddy’s girl confesses that she suspects her marriage with handsome hunk, Dean, (Marlon Wayons) may be on the rocks, Daddy, who’s apparently had some some experience with divorce, pulls out the stops. He wants to comfort Laura. But, he also convinces her to join him in  playing detective to find out if hubby is cheating.

Laura is an author with writer’s block who has become a sad wife. She’s  more concerned with the house and the kids. She’s dresses a bit dowdy and downtrodden, even with her adorable little girls. Coppola seems to be making a statement, to a certain extent, on women’s plight. Laura is going through the motions shopping, cooking, and taking the kids to school. Coppola casts comedian Jenny Slate as Vanessa, a non-stop talker always finding Laura while waiting for their kids at school. Vanessa is most annoying, spewing about dating, adding fuel to the fire.  

In the meantime, Laura is getting mixed messages from workaholic Dean’s phone calls and texts. He’s always having late night meetings with colleagues, including one named Fiona (Jessica Henwick). What’s up with that?

When she decides to confide her doubts to Felix, their Daddy/Daughter lunches and dinners over cocktails focus on whether her marriage is on the rocks. These scenes are slow and seem never-ending. This is where the film lags. Better when they’re out and about and Felix is pouring on the charm as he even does with a barista. Laura finally asks, “Can you be around a woman without hitting on her? To which he replies, “You used to be fun.” 

Felix is very connected in the art world, and Coppola adds some scenes of Daddy showing off his friend’s Monet painting. Felix is a real operator and steamroller. He talks her into all kinds of shenanigans, including secretly following Dean coming out of a meeting, speeding down streets recklessly in his red roadster so fast, he gets stopped by a cop. Coppola makes it a little too convenient that Felix knows the cop’s father and is even able to smooth-talk his way out of a ticket.

Laura gets even more suspicious when Dean apologizes for having to go to Mexico for a meeting on her birthday. Oh, and of course it’s with Fiona and the office crew. Felix persuades her to “think like a man” and for both of them to go south of the border to stake out what Dean is really up to. Felix and Laura hiding in hedges and running all over the resort grounds just   gets slap-schtick silly. Bill Murray’s performance feels like a “best hits” album. He easily falls back on his history of roles as that charming cad.  Think Lost in Translation, Ground Hog Day, Caddy Shack, Stripes. 

In this iteration, Felix has unlimited wealth and is all knowing except when it comes to his daughter. He loves her but can’t stop hurting her in the name trying to protect her. He’s loving, yet at the core, he’s self-centered, controlling and selfish. Does he really know what’s best for his little girl?

Rashida Jones is beautiful but stays wary and deadpan as this insecure wife and writer. When she becomes suspicious of her husband, her transformation into a self-doubting sleuth comes off as a bit inauthentic. The scenes of them running around a resort in Mexico to see what Dean is really doing is contrived comedy. The pacing is slow until, all of a sudden, the various ribbons of the plot are conveniently tied into a nice little bow. 

Laura has some quick quips and comebacks interacting with Dad, but Coppola clearly makes Bill Murray the focus of the laughs. Sofia Coppola is capable of so much more, and as is Rashida Jones. Even though Bill Murray can make us laugh with so little effort, we think this filmed could have mined a more rock solid ending.

A24 & Apple TV+     1 hour 36 minutes           R

The post On the Rocks first appeared on Movies and Shakers.

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