“And remember, don’t give your heart to any boys. You’re mine, until you get married. And then you’re still mine…” Spoken over a black screen, On The Rocks’ opening lines could be the prelude to a dark psychodrama of paternal possessiveness.
Instead, Sofia Coppola’s latest emerges as a beguiling, souffle-light comedy that could be an aged-up companion piece to the writer/director’s Somewhere (2010).
There are also echoes of Woody Allen in the set-up, which sees author Laura (Rashida Jones) and her philandering father Felix (Bill Murray) tailing Laura’s possibly faithless husband Dean (Marlon Wayans) all over a picturesque Manhattan.
As the quest takes them across the border, the film almost descends into a farce of lesser-Allen proportions. But it’s yanked back from the brink by the terrific leads’ lived-in portrayal of a loving-but-complex dad-daughter relationship.
Conjuring past roles (Coppola’s Lost In Translation, Broken Flowers), Murray essays pure, distilled Murray-ness, charming and disarming everyone in his path (grandkids, waiters, cops) while drolly spouting gender-stereotype bullshit (like that opener) that self-deconstructs on impact. Jones’ reactions to the feckless Felix – whether smiling indulgently or shutting him down – are effortlessly on point.
She also nails Laura’s work-life juggling, investing unforced feeling in everything from her writer’s block to those three words that come so easily to parents: “Go to sleep.”