Over the last several years, Bill Murray has crafted a public persona that is both charming and unusual. He will crash engagement photoshoots, read poetry to construction workers, and steal people's food when they aren't looking. Sofia Coppola's On The Rocks seems to capture this persona, unlike any previous role. He is the charismatic center of the film.
The film is light on plot. Rashida Jones plays Laura, a married woman with two young daughters who begins to suspect that her husband Dean (Marlon Wayans) is cheating on her with his assistant. She turns to her dad for advice but sound advice is not what she gets. Murray plays Felix as a whimsical, mischievous womanizer who clearly loves his daughter. He sets her off on a caper-esque adventure to catch Dean in the act. Along the way, they bond and fight and ultimately learn a few things.
One of the unique things Murray is capable of is retaining Felix's appeal even when he says some misogynistic things. He talks about how males are incapable of being with only one woman, mostly because he was incapable. He cheated on Laura's mother and broke the family up, something she hasn't forgiven him for. Jones is able to hold her own with Murray here. She is sympathetic but not a weak woman. It is more like things have become so calm and routine in her life, she is having trouble trusting it. Jones does a nice job of playing Laura as someone caught between the influence of her father and her own heart.
The film has a typical loose structure that Coppola thrives in. A dinner scene, in particular, shines because it feels untethered by plot or forward momentum. While On The Rocks features many scenes that feel like they could have been directed by anyone, it features a handful of wonderful scenes that feel like only Coppola could pull off. The ragged structure of the film means it is more hang-out film than a mystery but it hardly matters. I would watch Murray race around the city in a red Alfa Romeo convertible, eating caviar with no plot needed.
However, as the film closes there is a slight sense of emptiness. The lived-in nature of the scenes makes them a joy to experience but the culminating effect is less impactful. This is a father-daughter story and aside from one heartbreaking and honest argument between them, there isn't really a pay-off. Still, the film contains many joys even if it doesn't leave a lasting impression.
On The Rocks is currently only in theaters but will be available on Apple TV+ starting Friday, October 23.