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'On the Rocks' review: Breezy comedy hides deep thoughts

Bill Murray and Rashida Jones in "On the

Bill Murray and Rashida Jones in "On the Rocks."  Credit: Apple TV+

PLOT When a woman suspects her husband of cheating, she seeks help from her philandering father.

CAST Rashida Jones, Bill Murray, Marlon Wayans

RATED R (some adult talk)


WHERE Playing at Bellmore Movies and streaming on Apple TV+

BOTTOM LINE A deceptively wispy comedy from filmmaker Sofia Coppola that makes the most of Murray and often hints at deeper thoughts.

In Sofia Coppola’s "On the Rocks," a youngish wife with two kids suspects her husband is having an affair. While Laura, played by Rashida Jones, takes care of the children and tries to work on her latest book, Dean (Marlon Wayans) spends an awful lot of time with the leggy assistant at his successful start-up. Dean seems like such an enlightened, modern male. How did he become such a cliche?

For answers, Laura turns to her father, Felix, a successful art dealer and legendary womanizer played by a wonderful Bill Murray (Coppola’s "Lost in Translation" muse). "He’s a man," Felix says over a glass of Cutty Sark. "It’s nature."

So begins a breezy little comedy in which father and daughter tromp around New York City like private eyes trying to catch a husband in flagrante. Small in scale and gentle in tone, it’s a close cousin to Woody Allen’s 1993 bauble "Manhattan Murder Mystery" (1993), but Coppola has more on her mind than getting a few laughs. In its featherweight way, "On the Rocks" asks a number of heavy questions about women, men, generational progress and what we’ve lost along the way.

All of this is bundled into Felix, a dubious yet endearing character that possibly only Murray could play. He’s a supportive father, an intelligent charmer, a crude chauvinist. When he orders Laura’s drink without asking ("a Bombay martini for the kid"), then explains why evolution requires older men to sleep with younger women, Felix somehow oozes old-fashioned charm and masculinity rather than misogyny. Laura protests whenever Felix tries to whisk her away with no consideration for her plans – but she always joins him. In short, Laura gets from her father what she doesn’t get from her partner: special treatment.

One reason we love Felix – which Coppola couldn’t foresee -- is that he acts as our post-pandemic guide to stories Manhattan haunts like the 21 Club and the Bemelmans Bar. It can’t be accidental, however, that Coppola portrays Laura and Dean as likeable but more than a little bland. Their mutual love and respect are all very nice, but Felix is out there somewhere, speeding around in a vintage convertible with a bottle of Champagne in the passenger seat. Isn’t that where we’d rather be?

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