It’s been seventeen years since Bill Murray starred in a Sofia Coppola film. Well, that is unless you count A Very Murray Christmas, which I don’t. Either way, it’s surprising that these two didn’t have more collaborations following Lost in Translation. At the time, Murray’s comedy career was dwindling and Coppola was still known best for her infamous role in The Godfather: Part III. With Lost in Translation, Murray showcased his full range as an actor while Coppola cemented her status as one of our best directors. Although On the Rocks isn’t quite on par with that masterpiece, it’s a reminder why Murray and Coppola are a match made in heaven. Of course, Murray and Coppola aren’t alone.
Coppola and Rashida Jones share a fair deal in common. Both have famous fathers, but each woman got to where they are today based on their own merits. Chances are you were first introduced to Jones through her TV roles on Boston Public, The Office, and Parks and Recreation. For many of us, we didn’t make the connection between Rashida and Quincy until after she hit the big time. That’s a testament to how likable of an actress Jones is. She gives one of her best performances in On the Rocks as Laura, an author suffering from writer’s block. As Laura struggles to put a story to paper, she weaves her own life into a soap opera.
With a fancy New York apartment, two bright young daughters, and a loving husband (Marlon Wayans), Laura seems to be living the dream. Laura is thrown for a loop, however, when she finds a woman’s toiletries in her husband’s suitcase. Although he gives a logical explanation, Laura can’t help but be suspicious. That suspicion is only intensified by Laura’s father Felix (Murray), who smells adultery. Using Felix’s vast resources, the father and daughter set up an armature sting operation.
On paper, this all sounds like something out of a sitcom that we’ve seen a million times before. Being written by Coppola, though, the film is much smarter and funnier than it seems. This is primarily thanks to the believable bond between Laura and Felix. Murray shines as the aging yet eccentric father who can charm his way out of any situation. Laura is equally strong as the practical daughter who goes against her better judgment. One can’t help but wonder if Sophia’s relationship with Francis Ford Coppola inspired the screenplay at all. In any case, you never doubt Laura and Felix’s dynamic.
Coppola previously explored father/daughter relationships in 2010’s Somewhere. The film’s midlife crisis theme also has echoes of Lost in Translation. On the Rocks never feels like a retread of Coppola’s previous work, however. This is perhaps the closest Coppola has come to making a feel-good comedy, balancing warm moments with dialogue that tickles you in all the right places. At the same time, the film is the deep exploration of life, maturity, and relationships that we’ve come to expect from Coppola.
On the Rocks will be playing at Harkins Camelview on October 2, following by an Apple TV+ streaming release on October 23.