It’s endearing, at times touching, and a humorous supporting turn by Bill Murray makes for a pleasant if not entirely unostentatious film experience.
On the Rocks, a comedic drama about the pitfalls of marriage after children come into the picture, can be underwhelming at times. Once Bill Murray enters the fold, it becomes a mildly more enjoyable film, but the tropes have not aged as well as Murray’s considerable, understated charm.
On the Rocks reunites director Sophia Coppola and Murray, who has directed him twice before in Lost in Translation and, believe it or not, A Very Bill Murray Christmas. He plays Felix, a rich playboy who spouts off more trivial facts than Alex Trebek during the tournament of champions week. He takes his daughter Laura (Rashida Jones) under his wing to teach her the nuances of how a husband successfully cheats on their spouse. Why? Well, she thinks her husband, Dean (Marlon Wayans), is cheating on her when she finds a woman’s toiletry bag in his suitcase after one of his numerous business trips.
Now, On the Rocks is fairly entertaining but does contain the familiar cinematic clichés of a father trying to reunite with their kids. You know what I mean. The storyline where the father leaves the family behind because he decided he has to restart the process of sowing his wild oats. As Murray’s Felix explains it, he only comes to this conclusion after starting a family and the warm glow from his wife’s gaze is diverted onto their children. The script by Coppola is notably lighter than Lost in Translation, and it’s never more apparent than in a scene where he talks a cop out of giving him a ticket that’s eye-rolling. Even the unexpected happy ending seems out of place in comparison.
On the Rocks attempts to take the curious storyline of a father putting his daughter in the mind of a cheater in an attempt to revamp a cliché that has been redone multiple times over. You may find the twist by the end refreshing and Rashida Jones’s Laura has less contempt for her father than one would think, which is in line with more real-world experience (think Tom Hanks in Nothing in Common). While the film is carried by Jones, it reaches greater heights when Murray enters the frame. It’s an endearing, at times touching, and humorous supporting turn that makes for a pleasant, if not unostentatious, film experience.
M.N. Miller has been a film and television writer for Ready Steady Cut since August of 2018 and is patiently waiting for the next Pearl Jam album to come out.