Charming Bill Murray is the best Bill Murray. He’s been cultivating the persona of the lovable bastard since his days back at “Saturday Night Live,” but like a good cocktail, it’s bringing out the perfect mix of charisma and jerk that puts Murray at the top of his game.
One of Murray’s best bartenders is writer/director Sofia Coppola, who previously worked with him in the fantastic “Lost in Translation.” The two have paired up again in “On the Rocks,” a bouncy, comedic misadventure where Murray plays an aging playboy named Felix reconnecting with his middle-aged daughter Laura, played by Rashida Jones.
It’s probably unfair to have led with Murray, since Jones, a fine comedic actress in her own right, is really the heart of the film. She plays a physically and emotionally exhausted mother of two young girls who has put her writing career on hold mostly because she doesn’t have any energy to do anything other than wrangle her family.
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Felix comes into the picture when Laura begins to suspect her workaholic husband with a promising career, Dean (played by Marlon Wayans), is secretly having an affair.
Feeling he can smell his own, Felix suggests he and Laura tail Dean around New York City in the hopes of catching him in the act.
Felix spouts chauvinistic monologues about how nature and evolution make it impossible for a man to stay faithful to his wife, while Laura quietly holds out hope against her own suspicions it’s all just a misunderstanding.
In lesser hands, Felix would be so unbearably obnoxious it would be impossible to believe Laura would indulge in his cloak-and-dagger hijinks, but Murray exudes such a warmth and flair you’re more than happy to go along for the ride.
Ultimately, this is a movie about the tension in a woman’s life between her two great loves, her father and her husband; the one she’s stuck with and the one she’s chosen. Coppola swims in the complexities of these relationships and offers, in this push and pull, Laura’s greatest challenge is finding room for herself.
“On the Rocks” is nothing fancy, just an enjoyable movie with great performances helmed by a clear-eyed and confident filmmaker. I’ll drink to that.
“On the Rocks” is rated R for some language/sexual references.
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