Bill Murray steals the show in Sofia Coppola’s “On the Rocks”


Photo courtesy of Apple TV+

Rashida Jones and Bill Murray are the stars of Sofia Coppola’s newest film, “On the Rocks” which released Oct. 23. Photo courtesy of Apple TV+

Sofia Coppola’s newest film “On the Rocks” is a bittersweet father-daughter comedy set in the bustling city of New York. Coppola casts actors Bill Murray and Rashida Jones who play a loving father-daughter duo. Like any film that Murray is cast in, one can almost guarantee that he will take at least partial control of the film and win the hearts of the audience, which is exactly what happens in “On the Rocks.”

The film is centered around Jones’ character Laura, and her husband Dean (Marlon Wayans). The two live in a spacious Soho apartment with their two young daughters. Laura is a writer stricken with a case of writer’s block as the deadline of her next book looms overhead. Dean is the head of some startup tech company that requires him to travel for meetings and conferences. 

Laura begins to question her husband’s fidelity one night after he stumbles into bed following a business trip. Groggy from his flight, Dean crawls into bed, nestling and kissing his wife. Laura greets him with a “Hi” to which he replies “Oh. Hi.” with confusion. This awkward interaction with her husband triggers Laura’s suspicion that her husband may be having an affair. 

The film focuses on the unhappiness that can reside in a seemingly stable marriage. This general unhappiness among women, particularly those who are well-off or married, is not a typical trademark of Coppola films. This being said, Laura represents a kind of modern day heroine; she is a woman with everything she needs, a career of her own, two beautiful daughters yet is visibly unsatisfied. Coppola’s portrayal of privilege is a common theme, especially in films like “Lost in Translation” (2003), “Beguiled” (2017) and “The Bling Ring” (2013) but in “On the Rocks,” Coppola is perhaps pointing to the idea that a life of privilege isn’t a sure way to happiness.

As Laura becomes more and more suspicious of her husband she recruits the help of her father, Felix (Bill Murray). This is where Murray hijacks the film as the role of a wealthy art dealer with a strict set of beliefs pertaining to men and the idea of monogamous relationships. It’s clear that Felix has a flirting problem. He can hardly go anywhere without making smooth remarks to young, attractive women he encounters—even when it’s in front of his daughter and granddaughters. 

Felix provides his daughter with a male perspective and a “men are men” stance that he attributes to biology. Felix quickly becomes obsessed in trying to help his daughter figure out whether her husband is sleeping with his new business associate. It is revealed that Felix’s obsession may be a projection of his insecurities about his shortcomings as a father and the lack of fidelity in his past marriage to Laura’s mother. It’s Felix’s unexpected character that gives this film the freshness it needs.

Both Murray and Jones’ performances are what carry this film to being an overall decent film. Jones’ narrow acting range did not hold her back in her portrayal of an emotionally struggling housewife. Murray typically plays characters that are warm and loveable but in “On the Rocks” he might be equally repulsive as he is charming. Murray’s performance creates a conflict within the audience of deciding whether to love or hate him. The pair gave the film familiar faces and a comedic, light-hearted element to an otherwise gloomy and emotionally jarring tale. 

Overall, “On the Rocks” was pleasant to watch. The beauty of its cinematography paired with a captivating performance from Hollywood old timer Bill Murray are what push this film past its lack of originality when it comes to storyline. This film will appeal to romantics and comedy fans alike. Coppola’s “On the Rocks” is now streaming on Apple TV+. 

Rating: 3.5/5

Sophia Pearson can be reached at [email protected] or @sophia__pearson on Twitter.