Empire (UK) - - ON SCREEN -

OUT 2 OC­TO­BER ★★★★ (AP­PLE TV+: 23 OC­TO­BER) CERT 12A / 96 MINS DIREC­TOR Sofia Cop­pola CAST Rashida Jones, Bill Mur­ray, Mar­lon Wayans

PLOT Laura (Jones), Dean (Wayans) and their two kids live a pic­ture-per­fect life in Man­hat­tan, un­til she be­gins to sus­pect that he’s cheat­ing on her. As her wor­ries mount, Laura turns to her age­ing-lothario dad Felix (Mur­ray) to help her get to the bottom of her hus­band’s be­hav­iour.

IT’S AL­MOST TWO years since the an­nounce­ment that Ap­ple and in­die film he­roes A24 would part­ner on orig­i­nal films. The first film they’d pro­duce: Sofia Cop­pola’s eighth fea­ture, drama com­edy On The Rocks, which re­unites the direc­tor with some­time muse Bill Mur­ray.

Writer Laura (Rashida Jones) is strug­gling with two small kids, writer’s block and the creep­ing sus­pi­cion that her ap­par­ently per­fect hus­band (Mar­lon Wayans) is cheat­ing on her with a col­league. Af­ter she con­fides in her father (Bill Mur­ray) — a feck­less, sex­ist (if oddly charm­ing) di­nosaur best suited to life and gen­der pol­i­tics of the 1970s — she finds her­self creep­ing around the streets and cock­tail bars of New York try­ing to catch him out.

What is seem­ingly a por­trait of a mar­riage in cri­sis, the “on the rocks” of the ti­tle, is ac­tu­ally an in­ter­est­ing study of an in­te­rior cri­sis mod­ern women face; one that is far more seis­mic than whether their hus­band is jump­ing in the sack with his hot, long-legged busi­ness as­so­ciate. A cri­sis of who we be­come once we’ve traded the ti­tle of daugh­ter for one of wife or mother or both. Of what be­comes of our creative im­pulses and drive. Of our sense of iden­tity.

Rub­bing up against this very con­tem­po­rary con­cern is Mur­ray’s Felix. A man from an­other age, who ex­ists in a New York seem­ingly of a dif­fer­ent era. Clubs and and restau­rants with plush leather seat­ing, maître d’s who know your name and pre­ferred liquor.

Though Cop­pola’s di­a­logue can be spritely, the clashes that take place be­tween father and daugh­ter, across the gen­er­a­tional di­vide, aren’t al­ways sub­tle, or even par­tic­u­larly in­ter­est­ing. He’s of the gen­er­a­tion who be­lieve women are owned by men — es­pe­cially by the men who love them (the film opens with a piece of nar­ra­tion from when Laura’s clearly a child. “And re­mem­ber,” says her father. “Don’t give your heart to any boy. You’re mine un­til you get mar­ried. And then you’re still mine”). And the seeds of mar­i­tal strife don’t al­ways avoid cliché (Dean buys Laura a kitchen ap­pli­ance for her birth­day. Dan­ger!).

But there’s a quiet, of­ten in­tox­i­cat­ing charm to the rhythms of this film. From the com­fort­able rou­tines of fam­ily life — Laura in a Beastie Boys T-shirt over­see­ing teeth-clean­ing and hair­brush­ing; the hur­ried, happy walk to school — to the ebb and flow of un­ease about his fi­delity. And how this ques­tion­ing of the man who Laura’s long been con­vinced is noth­ing like her phi­lan­der­ing father only seeks to widens the cracks that have long ex­isted be­tween her and Felix.

On The Rocks is also a por­trait of New York at its finest — the streets hum­ming with mu­si­cal­ity and shim­mer­ing in the frame, as Mur­ray re­leases the throt­tle on his clas­sic car. In truth, it’s ar­guably a New York that doesn’t ex­ist any­more, and as such there’s some­thing al­most melan­cholic about the city that Cop­pola ren­ders with such ten­der­ness and af­fec­tion.

Mur­ray is in­fu­ri­at­ingly, but res­o­lutely en­dear­ing, his re­la­tion­ship with Jones cred­i­ble and full of re­gret and heart. And Jones is com­pelling as a woman try­ing to re­mem­ber if who she was is still who she is. TERRI WHITE


Lighter and slighter than we may ex­pect from Cop­pola, On The Rocks is an em­i­nently charm­ing, gor­geous por­trait of a daugh­ter, wife and mother find­ing her way back to her­self via the streets of New York City.

Was that re­ally Scar­lett Jo­hans­son at the cater­ing van?

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