It probably would have made more sense for Sofia Coppola’s new movie “On the Rocks” to come out the same month as Father’s Day, but for whatever reason, it ended up becoming a non-spooky release for October. Originally receiving a standard limited release on the 2nd, the dramedy is now speedily available on AppleTV for home viewing only three weeks later. For those of us who are longtime fans of Coppola’s work, this was a nice surprise. While the filmmaker’s features are usually visually pleasing, you don’t necessarily need a traditional theater visit to fully enjoy them during a last-minute change of plans. As usual for the writer-director, “On the Rocks” is a blend of Coppola’s real-life inspiration, easygoing humor, and attractive aesthetics.
In Manhattan, NY, Laura Keane (Rashida Jones) is about to have her 40th birthday and couldn’t be more lethargic. She has a seemingly great life between her caring and successful husband Dean (Marlon Wayans), their two young daughters, and her writing career. But on the inside, Laura is suddenly caught with a bout of writer’s block and grows increasingly paranoid Dean has lost interest in her and their marriage. The person who turns up to support her through her neurotic episode is her eccentric and unpredictable father, Felix (Bill Murray).
Jessica Henwick co-stars as Dean’s colleague who Laura is suspicious of and Jenny Slate appears amusingly as a fellow mom with kids at the same elementary school as Laura’s kids. If you’ve read Coppola’s mother, Eleanor Coppola’s 2008 memoir “Notes on a Life,” “On the Rocks” might seem a little familiar with a couple of the recurring themes throughout the film. Before you can wonder if maybe her legendary father, Oscar-winning director Francis Ford Coppola, had some influence on the Murray character — it becomes pretty clear that the role was also a fun excuse for Sofia and Bill to work together again after “Lost in Translation” (2003) and “A Very Murray Christmas” (2015). The casting of Jones is interesting because she feels a bit different from Coppola’s past leads, like Kirsten Dunst and Scarlett Johansson, yet also makes sense as an on-screen alter-ego for the filmmaker with both having similar upbringings in the showbiz field.
But most of all, “On the Rocks” reminds Coppola fans that she is at her best and most natural with modern settings, even if I do admire her efforts to branch out with costume pieces like “arie Antoinette” (2006) and “The Beguiled” (2017). Philippe le Sourd’s striking cinematography, along with the token soundtrack supplied by Phoenix, make us enjoy the ride with Jones, Murray and company for another fresh, extended, cinematic vacation Sofia style.