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On the Rocks

Review by Rich Cline | 5/5   MUST must see SEE

On the Rocks
dir-scr Sofia Coppola
prd Youree Henley, Sofia Coppola
with Bill Murray, Rashida Jones, Marlon Wayans, Jessica Henwick, Jenny Slate, Liyanna Muscat, Alexandra Reimer, Anna Reimer, Barbara Bain, Juliana Canfield, Alva Chinn, Mike Keller
release US/UK 2.Oct.20
20/US A24 1h35

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Small but perfectly formed, this loose New York comedy sets the scene with unrushed ease, grounding the story in the chaos of everyday life while launching into freeform silliness that lets Bill Murray run loose. Even as the story centres on marital problems, writer-director Sofia Coppola keeps the tone fizzy and amusing, filling the interaction with earthy humour. It's a gorgeous jazz-riff of a movie, underscoring the comedy with warm emotion.
As Laura (Jones) marries Dean (Wayans), her playboy father Felix (Murray) reminds her that she will always belong to him. A decade and two daughters later, Laura's procrastinating on a writing deadline, while Dean continually travels for work. Which sparks nagging suspicions about his leggy colleague Fiona (Henwick). When Laura shares these concerns with her dad, he offers knowing advice that worries her even more. So when Dean and Fiona take yet another trip, missing Laura's birthday, Felix proposes doing some detective work. This opens Laura's eyes to both her husband and her father.
The film's easy conversations are wonderfully engaging, swirling through serious themes and touching on past issues while remaining natural and offhanded. Felix has a brutally honest approach to marriage and monogamy that isn't particularly helpful to Laura at this moment, but possibly will be in the long run. Coppola fills scenes with bracing observations that peek under the surface, portraying relationships with complexity and nuance. Conversations continually pull at various loose threads, reminding us that feelings are far more confusing than we admit.

Murray is flat-out awesome as a smooth-talker who knows too much about women and doesn't seem to take anything seriously. But despite his charming bluster, he definitely does. He also delivers the funniest line of the year ("One drink"). Jones matches him perfectly, creating a terrific father-daughter dynamic, as the sharply intelligent Laura faces life without over-dramatising anything that comes along. And Wayans creates a remarkably true-to-life character, a loving husband and father with authentically out-of-focus priorities.

As the wisp of a plot continues, it amiably veers toward farce as Felix coaxes Julia into spying on Dean's work dinner, then an even bigger adventure. Amid the continual stream of jokes and moments of enthusiastic musicality, there are deeper questions that add a warm undercurrents without taking over. And lovely thematic touches are woven into the narrative, such as a comment about how confidence is what makes someone attractive. Or that unfaithfulness is about lying, not sex. Or that it's important to take time from your problems to enjoy what you have.

cert 15 themes, language 23.Oct.20

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© 2020 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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