‘On the Rocks’ is a warm reunion of Coppola and Murray

Director Sofia Coppola has always had unfair expectations of me throughout her 21-year career.

In all fairness, this will happen when your first movie, 1999’s “The Virgin Suicides” is really good and your second movie, 2003’s “Lost in Translation” hints that you might be a generational talent behind the camera.

This led me to wild anticipation when a new Coppola movie was announced and generally found his subsequent films to be good, if a little underwhelming. I wanted to love “Marie Antoinette” and “The Bling Ring” more than I actually did, even though they were both good. The strange divergence of “Somewhere” and the period piece “The Beguiled” just didn’t appeal to me.

Which brings me to Coppola’s latest film, “On the Rocks,” which not only marks his reunion with Bill Murray, but is in many ways a sister film to Coppola’s greatest work, “Lost in Translation”.

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Laura (Rashida Jones) has been a New York mom for years in her marriage to Dean (Marlon Wayans). In the prologue, we see them on their wedding day, carefree and slipping away to start honeymoon activities early.

Fast forward a few years and Laura is the epitome of mom’s life while juggling a career as a writer. (Yes, writers are overrepresented as a career in movies – and I say that as a writer.) Her marriage still seems healthy, just a little… strained. As will parenthood.

But as suspicions that Dean may not be faithful begin to creep in, Laura’s eccentric, larger-than-life, wealthy father Felix (Bill Murray) enters the conversation.

What strikes me about “On the Rocks” is how personal and real it feels, revisiting a similar vein to “Lost in Translation” and influenced by the real life years in between. Coppola portrays motherhood in an honest, everyday way, as Laura rushes the kids to daycare, chats with other moms (including a tall Jenny Slate), and has her own doubts about herself as she tries to do everything.

Jones is perfectly chosen and gives what is perhaps his best performance to date. Her comedic timing remains precise as always, adding the necessary levity, but she also conveys a lot of emotion in a sober performance.

As expected during his big reunion with Coppola, Murray arrives like a wrecking ball. He injects his ironic comedic timing, especially in a hilarious scene where he speaks softly to get out of a ticket after speeding through the streets of New York City.

But Murray and Jones also touched a truly heartwarming note in the relationship between a father and his grown daughter that imbues a sweetness and sweet playfulness.

You could easily say that there is not much in terms of the plot of “On the Rocks”. It’s more of a feeling and a vibe, and it’s Coppola’s best revisit of his best movie, because it nails the two.

“On the rocks”

Opens today at Gateway Film Center
Available on Apple TV + October 23
4 out of 5 stars

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