on the rocks

Director Sofia Coppola’s previous collaboration with Bill Murray, “Lost in Translation,” was easily one of the best films of its decade. The film explored loneliness and the celebrity culture in a time where that was a new and inventive filmmaking idea. In their new collaboration, “On The Rocks'' plays like a greatest hits montage over a progressive new look on a familiar idea. The story follows a young mother (Rashida Jones) who ends up going on an adventure with her older, bachelor and run-around father (Bill Murray) to find out if her husband (Marlon Wayans) is having an affair behind her back. A premise like this may not sound the most original or creative, but I ask you to consider the plot a launching off point for the story's true intention. 

"On The Rocks" is about the relationships we have between our loved ones that are always changing. It’s not necessarily a universally appealing theme, but it’s one that can make a very pleasant viewing experience. The lead performances of Jones and Murray, and the sharp script by Coppola make it so incredibly enjoyable. Murray is an actor known for his dry wit sensibilities which Coppola fully realizes and lets lose in full force. From the moment he appears in the backseat of a limousine, the jokes fly so consistently that 90 minutes felt like a blink of an eye. In one of the funniest moments in recent memory, a scene involving getting pulled over gave me some hearty laughs. While this isn’t the type of role to win any awards, I definitely see it as one worthy of multiple accolades in all shapes and sizes.

Most may know Rashida Jones from her times on "The Office" or "Parks and Recreation," but she has been in the business for quite some time. From appearing in supporting roles in random films like “Cop Out” and “The Social Network” to writing the script for “Toy Story 4,” she has shown her true range as a Hollywood talent. Here she holds her own against a legend like Murray, being just as funny and totally registering as his daughter. Unlike the slyness of Murray, Jones is able to play a vulnerability as someone confused in life and in need of direction. It’s normally quite difficult to make a performance like this a narrative “type” but Jones does so with great ease. Virtually every actor she comes into contact with her chameleon-like process of creating banter is majorly impressive. That method plays in large part with the eclectic supporting cast that surrounds her.

Wayans shows his range as an actor as he is normally known for silly comedies. In playing the unfaithful husband, Wayans doesn’t let his more immature comic sensibilities get in the way. He feels like a real person, warts and all, which is nice to see. Jessica Henwick, known for her role in Netflix’s "Iron Fist," also gets more shading as someone who works with Wayans, that isn’t as villainous as she appears. The only real caricature is Jenny Slate (also from Parks and Recreation) as a fellow Mom at Jones’ children's school.  Thankfully, she makes the most of her screen time and never comes off as shrill. The point here is that you have three actors that don’t quite follow the narrative conventions you may expect.

Now, I'm not saying that “On The Rocks” is a bad film in any sense of the word. It is a film that feels like an excuse for a reunion between incredibly talented people. Sometimes, that can feel like a vacation (I’m looking at you Adam Sandler!) and other times it can feel like a band getting back together. Give them a good script with a steady stream of laughs, and you get a movie like this. It may not go on to receive the praise of something like “Lost in Translation,” but it’s one that is distinct enough to leave a mark.

Rating: 3.5/5


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