“A young mother reconnects with her larger-than-life playboy father on an adventure through New York.”

Director: Sofia Coppola
Writer: Sofia Coppola
Staring: Bill Murray, Rashida Jones, Marlon Wayans, Jessica Henwick
Rated: R
Release Date: October 23, 2020

On The Rocks (2020) has a very simple premise.

Laura (Rashida Jones) is married to Dean (Marlon Wayans). She has fallen into a bit of a rut romantically and professionally, and her worries begin compounding themselves when she is noticing odd behaviors by her betrothed. Dean is working like a mad-man and spending a lot of time with his co-worker Fiona (Jessica Henwick), and Laura begins getting ideas that Dean, the father of her children, is cheating on her.

Laura talks it over with some friends, and then speaks with her father, Felix (Bill Murray). Felix, to be frank, is a horny man who indulges with the best things in life. His relationship with his daughter is spoiling her every time he gets, and it is obvious that he likes spending time with her. Without much build-up, Felix and Laura embark on a hide-and-seek question following Dean, trying to find out whether or not he is being unfaithful.

On The Rocks is a comedic drama that uses its easy-to-understand roadmap to its benefit. The screenplay and filmmaking of Sophia Coppola allow for the actors to have freedom with their characters. The chemistry between all the story’s characters is key, and the performances from everyone involved are all worthy of applause and recognition.

How many of Bill Murray’s lines were written out, versus how many were improvised? Will we ever know? Probably not.

Regardless, this is the type of role that Murray thrives in. He gets to be sauntering, charming and unrealistically charismatic. Felix can woo his way into any restaurant he needs. He can talk his way out of a speeding ticket because he knows the cop’s grandfather. He can begin serenading a group of strangers and have them buy-in 100%. Felix knows no bounds. Murray brings the proper sense of over-eagerness to the role. He wants to impress wherever he goes, and you learn part of his motivation late in On The Rocks when he and his daughter have a heart-to-heart about how they each go about romantic relationships.

It makes sense why Murray was so comfortable working with this character. It is his third collaboration with Sophia Coppola, with the other major award-winning production being their first, Lost In Translation (2003). Murray has a way of being the center of gravity in every scene he is in, and he is often working alongside the very talented Rashida Jones.

Hand up. I only knew Rashida Jones from Parks & Recreation heading into this movie. Can’t say I have seen her in a lot of stuff. With that being said, Jones is very good in On The Rocks. The takes the struggle that Laura and admirably portrays it with a beautiful balance of internal and external behaviors. She wears the doubt she is feeling on the inside like a wrinkled shirt; she is able to walk around and do her duties but she is not confident in the way she looks and the way she is feeling. Her father acts like a jacket, covering up the wrinkles and allowing her to explore more freely without being judged. However, the jacket doesn’t fit. It is a nice comfort wear for a while, but it eventually becomes too heavy and your internal body block starts getting antsy.

You can easily empathize with the emotions Laura is dealing with. You can see how someone like Felix is what she wants because he will indulge her feelings and validate them. The struggle between the daughter and father is that Felix indulges for partially selfish reasons, and that is hard for Laura to deal with after a time. There is never true animosity between the pair. There is never hatred. Each know the personality flaws of the other and it is a matter of dealing with those character traits in only a way a family can. It is a test of patience and will power, two things nobody has an endless supply of.

On The Rocks treats adult emotions with respect. The story acknowledges there are layers to every thought and inkling. Sure, there is a lot more comedic relief in the movie than in real life, but Bill Murray makes those moments seem humanly possible. The one-time Oscar nominee was recognized by a few critics associations for his performance, and it is one of the better performances in a dramatic movie. Coppola has the ingredients for his secret sauce.

On The Rocks is streaming on AppleTV+.

STANKO RATING: B+ (4.0/5 Stars)

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