On the Rocks
by Hope Madden
At its surface, On the Rocks offers a wryly fun adventure film. It’s a flashy, superficial good time with Bill Murray, and who does not want that?! It’s a father/daughter romp and a heist film of sorts, full of high-end cocktails, cool cars, and hijinks.
But that’s not really the film at all. Writer/director Sofia Coppola’s latest is a candy-coated rumination on legacies left by loving but problematic fathers.
Rashida Jones is Laura, a writer devoting most of her attention and time to her two little girls, with little left for creativity or chemistry. Her husband (Marlon Wayans) is putting in extra hours at work, traveling a lot, and spending a lot of time with his leggy colleague Fiona (Jessica Henwick).
Maybe he’s just busy and maybe Laura’s just in a rut.
Dad doesn’t think so.
Laura’s unrepentant playboy dad Felix (Murray) orchestrates a sleuthing adventure, tailing hubby’s taxis and offering sage advice from a man who knows a little something about infidelity.
Murray is all charm, his charisma at fever pitch. There’s also a lonesome, tender quality to the performance that gives it real depth, and enough self-absorption to grant it some authenticity.
Jones, as his reluctant accomplice, suggests the reality of midlife doldrums with grace. She also transmits the tragic enthusiasm of a daughter still pleased to be the focus of her father’s attention.
It’s almost impossible to avoid comparing Coppola’s latest dramedy with her Oscar-winning 2003 Murray vehicle, Lost in Translation. There are certainly similar themes: a woman unsure about her marriage finds herself drawn into a paternal relationship (with Bill Murray). On the Rocks is too tidy and too slick to entirely stand up to that comparison, but like Lost in Translation, there’s an autobiographical quality to the film that gives it a soul.