National Post (Latest Edition)
Murray re-teams up with Coppola to bring another gem to the screen
On the Rocks Cast: Rashida Jones, Bill Murray, Marlon Wayans Director: Sofia Coppola Duration: 1 h 36 m
“And remember, don’t give your heart to any boys.” Is that what Bill Murray whispered to Scarlett Johansson in the final scene of Lost in Translation?
Probably not. Writer- director Sofia Coppola is on the record that there was no specific line in the screenplay, just an unintelligible whisper.
And Murray isn’t telling. But I’d like to think it is, because it’s also the first line in Coppola’s new drama On the Rocks, another tale of infidelity and heartache starring Murray.
He plays Felix, a charming, wealthy philanderer whose daughter Laura ( Rashida Jones) has long ago resigned herself to his amusing, annoying antics. “I don’t know why women get plastic surgery,” he muses at one point during a father-daughter lunch date. She replies evenly: “Because of men like you.”
And he remains steadfastly, serenely oblivious to the effect he has on her. When she tells him sarcastically “It must be very nice to be you!” he replies: “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Murray may steal every scene he’s in, but On the Rocks is actually Laura’s story. Pushing 40 and trying to juggle motherhood with a literary career stalled by writer’s block, she feels unfocused, unproductive and unattractive.
Meanwhile, husband Dean ( Marlon Wayans) is working for an exciting tech startup and swanning around with his sexy British colleague Fiona ( Jessica Henwick). When he comes home from a business trip with Fiona’s toiletries kit in his suitcase, he tells Laura he packed it for her since she didn’t have space. Simple explanation — or, as Felix says: “Sloppy move.”
Bored, meddlesome and apt to view all male behaviour through the lens of his own womanizing ways, Felix makes no attempt to hide his opinion that Dean is cheating. And with seemingly endless time, money and connections, he can organize a stakeout as easily as a sleepover, and hire private detectives the way someone else might employ a party clown. “We put a hot watch on him,” he tells Laura at one point, clearly relishing the chase.
Writer- director Coppola’s screenplay is a thing of wonder, the way it pulls you into Laura’s orbit while she in turn gets dragged into her dad’s world view. Through it all, Dean remains a tantalizing enigma. After all, very guilty people often behave precisely the way perfectly innocent people do — innocently.
Trying to puzzle out Laura’s life makes for a satisfying 96 minutes, but there are secondary pleasures to be had along the way. Topping that list is Jenny Slate as Vanessa, a fellow mom whose emotional concerns bubble forth in an unending monologue. Everyone knows a Vanessa. Of courses, Murray remains the main attraction, and as always his character seems to nod and wink
at others he’s played over the years. Even beyond his previous work with Coppola, there’s his familiarity with concierges, which recalls The Grand Budapest Hotel; his genial stalker- ish behaviour, like something out of Broken Flowers; and his ability to say just the right thing in even the most outré situation, as if he’d practised it, Groundhog Day style.
Meanwhile, Coppola stocks her film with lovely New York locales that include Bemelmans Bar at the Carlyle Hotel, with its famous murals painted by its namesake, the author of the Madeline children’s books.
And when father and daughter travel to a Mexican resort to catch Dean in the act — something Laura clearly both does and does not want — Murray regales a group of guests with a wonderful a cappella version of Jack Tenney’s 1923 popular hit Mexicali Rose. It’s sweet and surprising, with just the right amount of roughness. That also describes On the Rocks to a T. Π•Π•½
On the Rocks opens in select cinemas on Oct. 2, and streams on Apple TV+
beginning Oct. 23.