Laura (Rashida Jones) and husband Dean (Marlon Wayans) live in New York where they’re raising two young daughters. Life is good. Dean’s advertising business is expanding rapidly and Laura is a writer contracted to complete a book. Then, one or two small things happen, and Laura thinks she detects signs that Dean might be having an affair with a co-worker. She confides her fears in her father Felix (Bill Murray). His response is not very reassuring, he automatically assumes Dean must be in the wrong and believes the best way to deal with the situation is to launch their very own investigation.
Felix’s ideas of how to get to the truth are idiosyncratic and highly impractical. Questioning the process at every step, Laura travels with her father through a variety of night spots and parties to uncover evidence of Dean’s possible infidelity. Her father is undoubtedly supportive, but he also has an opinion of men and their actions based on his own history and actions. Felix’s art dealing business takes him all over the world. His attitude to women generally, is to charm them. Is this unmarried, 70-year-old playboy necessarily the best judge of his Millennial son-in-law?
Laura cycles through suspicion and annoyance with herself for not having faith in Dean. She considers him a good father and she knows how much he wants to build his business. In a short period of time, she goes from believing her marriage is solid to being uncertain about everything her life is built upon.
ON THE ROCKS has the-end-of-love as its theme. What it presents however, is a shiny, comedic concoction with ingredients sourced from many places. Writer and director Sofia Coppola brings together mystery, a Woody Allen-esque feel (Chet Baker on the soundtrack, sparkling images on Manhattan), a father and daughter story and a hang-out vibe. She also reworks elements of her own filmic creations SOMEWHERE (2010) and especially LOST IN TRANSLATION (2003).
The world created here is very specific. Laura’s life is greatly privileged. This is more like a take on old movie comedies like THE PHILADELPHIA STORY (1940) where the audience enjoys a glimpse at the shiny interiors, the furniture, fashion, art and lives of the wealthy. This is not the place to find the USA you see presented on the news in 2020. This story is for people who have previously enjoyed the work of Rashida Jones and particularly Bill Murray. It’s for people who want to hang out with Felix and Laura while they’re hanging out at night in the City that Never Sleeps. (Note: Film-heads should keep also their eyes peeled for Barbara Bain and Jenny Slate in cameos.)
Laura has things to work out with Felix as it happens. It is their various conversations that hit on the rough patches in their relationship that provide some of the few substantial moments in this light, light confectionary bubble of a movie. It doesn’t say anything too deep, but for certain audience members like myself, it is a stylish and entertaining 96 minutes at the movies.(7/10)
ON THE ROCKS is in Australian Cinemas on October 2 and Apple TV on October 23.