In Sofia Coppola’s On the Rocks, Laura (Rashida Jones) spends a lot of unanticipated time with her wealthy and impulsive playboy dad Felix (Bill Murray). They share a mission to find out whether her husband Dean (Marlon Wayans) is cheating and that’s a subject Felix considers himself an expert in. As they push forward in screwball comic fashion to get answers, Laura has some fun while recognizing the flaws of her paternal copilot. And that kind of describes the picture itself. It’s often fun because Bill Murray is by her side. The flaws are also on display. This is often a meandering and predictable journey with only occasionally insightful dialogue about marriage and father/daughter relationships.
Laura is a writer in New York City and Dean is constantly traveling as his business is beginning to flourish. We get a quick glimpse of their romantic wedding night before flashing forward to their domesticated existence with two young girls. She may be suffering writer’s block, but her imagination takes hold with possible hints of her partner’s infidelity. Felix is more than ready to help her get to the bottom of it all and is in fact the driving force to do so.
Those who follow Murray (and why wouldn’t you) should know the folklore of Bill Murray Stories. The legendary actor is known to be unpredictable by showing up unannounced at random parties and having odd and sometimes hilarious interactions with fans. Coppola, who directed him in the far superior Lost in Translation, cheekily plays with that persona here. When he’s speeding through NYC with daughter in tow in a red convertible and devouring caviar, I couldn’t help but think that might be something the actor might do. When they’re pulled over and he charms his way out of a ticket, the same rule applies.
In that sequence, watching Bill Murray in said convertible with said caviar and using his iconic charms to keep on speeding is pleasing enough. The same could be said for a scene where he regales a group of strangers who are now his friends with his energetic singing. It feels as if an outtake might have been committed to film. His chemistry with Jones is just fine, though I wouldn’t think too much about how fantastic his interactions with Scarlett Johansson were in Translation. Maybe that’s not fair as Rocks doesn’t aim near as high as that previous collaboration.
Towards the conclusion, Coppola squeezes in some decent material about how Felix has shaped Laura’s views on men. It helps explain the increasingly ridiculous amateur detective shenanigans they find themselves in. On the Rocks is certainly watchable and entertaining enough and it’s primarily due to the guy in the convertible. I just wish a better story drove the action.
*** (out of four)