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Josh Reviews On the Rocks

Sofia Coppola’s latest film, On the Rocks, stars Rashida Jones as Laura, a woman who begins to suspect that her husband Dean (Marlon Wayans) is cheating on her.  So Laura enlists the aid of her wealthy, playboy-like father, Felix, to track Dean and get to the bottom of what’s going on.  Felix is played by Bill Murray, reuniting at last with Ms. Coppola for the first time since Lost in Translation.  This was one of my favorite movies of 2020!

On the Rocks is very funny.  The pairing of Mr. Murray and Ms. Jones yields as much comedic fruit as I’d hoped.  At the same time, On the Rocks is also a moving, sometimes sad story of the complicated relationship between Laura and her father.  I love how nuanced this film’s storytelling is.  No one is reduced to a simple character, a hero or a villain.  Everyone in this film is imperfect, and Ms. Coppola demonstrates an endearing amount of affection for these broken, flawed people.  I love that about the film.

Both Rashida Jones and Bill Murray are absolutely delightful in the film.  I love their chemistry with one another.  The film really takes off when the two of them are on-screen together, bouncing off one another.  Thankfully, the film’s loose, leisurely pace gives them plenty of time together to play.

This is not a film that is very heavy on plot.  In less-skilled hands that might have resulted in a boring, meandering story.  But what Ms. Coppola has created is a wonderfully engaging character study of these two imperfect people, and the many layers of their relationship with one another.  The film avoids the type of Big Dramatic plot twists or surprises that you might expect to see.  There are a few crazy situations, but for the most part the movie is pleasurably grounded in what feels like real life.

The film sings because of the performances of its two leads.  Bill Murray is magnetic; his charm and charisma show us how Felix has been able to dance his way so successfully through life.  (One of my favorite scenes in the film is the way Felix is able to almost effortlessly turn around what begins as a tense interaction with a policeman.  What’s unspoken yet omnipresent is that things might have played out very differently for Laura, a woman of color, had her wealthy white father not been there.)  And yet Ms. Coppola doesn’t allow Bill Murray’s likability to ever let Felix all the way off the hook for his bad behavior, the ripples of which Laura is clearly still struggling with.  Felix has left significant damage in his wake; and yet, at the same time, there’s still a palpable love and bond between Laura and her father.

Rashida Jones has a far less showy role than Bill Murray’s, but that only makes her work even more impressive.  Ms. Jones shows us so much of Laura’s frustrations and uncertainties in near-silent moments; we can see everything in the clenched look in her eyes.  And her facility with Ms. Coppola’s dialogue is tremendous.  She holds her own on-screen beside Mr. Murray with what seems like ease.

I was quite captivated by this lovely, low-key film.  I wish I could have spent more time in this world, with these two characters!

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