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October 26, 2020

Film review: ‘On the Rocks’ features the marvelous Bill Murray and a likable Rashida Jones

Sofia Coppola’s light comedy takes us on a romp through New York City

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Sofia Coppola’s “On the Rocks” is a light-hearted romp that will probably make you smile — but with inevitable envy.

Rashida Jones stars as Laura, a writer with writer’s block. She has two children, one a toddler, and she lives with her husband Dean (Marlon Wayans) in a New York loft that’s spacious and well-decorated. Dean is apparently a successful digital entrepreneur, but he’s spending a lot of time at work rather than at home. And after he leaves her embrace one night in bed, she begins to wonder whether he’s having an affair.

Laura has reasons to wonder about male fidelity. She’s the daughter of Felix (Bill Murray), an art expert and former gallery owner who has made so much money that he has memberships in all the best Manhattan clubs and his own chauffeured Mercedes. He’s a bon vivant who left his wife and daughter and has been a serial hound dog, albeit a rich one, ever since.

For some reason, Laura still loves him, and when he arrives back in New York after a European jaunt, she raises the question to him: Why would Dean pull away from her? Felix wastes no time in answering: He thinks Dean is having an affair.

So, with much protestation from Laura, he has Dean tailed. And with much flourish, he pulls from an envelope undercover photos of Dean to show Laura. The photos show mundane activities, like Dean’s eating a sandwich, but Felix is the consummate showman. And Laura still loves him, even if he’s trying to find proof that her marriage is over.



The movie would go nowhere if Laura simply decided to ask Dean whether he’s cheating on her. Happily, that doesn’t happen, and we get to see Laura and Felix going to all the places that we’d love to go, with lots of martinis and fabulous scenes, like one in the booth at 21 that was reserved for Bogey and Bacall. Oh, and Felix has a marvelous vintage red Alfa Romeo that he sometimes drives erratically.

Jones and Murray have an undeniable chemistry as they go on their chase for truth. As Felix, Murray spouts sexist crap with abandon, but always with a twinkle that makes you wonder what he really thinks. And Jones plays the type of “straight man” to all of his outrageousness. She seems to want to save her marriage, but she’s also tired of being stuck in her lovely loft. So Felix offers her an adventure.

Amid all of this, Coppola has some beautifully touching moments, like when Dean takes Laura to a noisy restaurant just before her birthday, and a waiter brings out a small cake with candles. Laura’s eyes light up, then the waiter takes the candle to the neighboring table, where two gay guys are sitting.

And then there’s a scene with Felix and Laura in a fancy restaurant, and Laura, who is nursing a martini, is feeling sad and despondent about the whole mess involving Dean, and then the camera focuses on a teardrop that falls in the cocktail and causes ripples. It’s sort of hokey, but it’s also beautiful.

“On the Rocks” opens  Oct. 2, in Austin at the Alamo South, the Alamo Lakeline and the Alamo Slaughter Lane. It also opens Oct. 23, on Apple TV+.


Charles Ealy
Charles Ealy
Charles Ealy is a former movies editor for The Dallas Morning News and Austin American-Statesman.

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