After a 17-year gap, Sofia Coppola and Bill Murray have reunited for On the Rocks, a comedy-drama that also stars Rashida Jones, Marlon Wayans, Jessica Henwick and Jenny Slate. On the Rocks is an original work written, co-produced and directed by Coppola and it represents a departure for the Oscar-winning filmmaker.

The most exciting aspect of Coppola’s latest is the potential for she and Murray to recreate that magic from 2003’s Lost in Translation. Will they be able to capture lightning in a bottle again? With Rashida Jones leading this group, the potential is there.

Jones plays Laura, a writer living in New York City with her husband Dean (Wayans) and their two young daughters. Laura’s career hasn’t taken off as she had hoped, while Dean’s business career is. Dean, though, is often out of town and travels with an attractive assistant, Fiona (Henwick). All that, along with Laura's growing lack of confidence and the idea life is passing her by, leads her to question Dean’s fidelity and their marriage.

Laura opens up to Felix (Murray), her wayward father, for advice. Felix, who’s quite the playboy, believes Dean is cheating on his daughter, but he not only urges Laura to seek out the truth, he gladly participates in surveilling Dean. Of course, things can only get messy when people’s lives and feelings are at stake, but at the least Laura and Felix have a chance to reconnect with each other.  

Unlike Lost in Translation, Murray isn’t the focus – Coppola gave Jones that task. For over a decade, Jones has used her girl-next-door vibe to provide winning and relatable performances. She does more of the same here as Laura exudes rare patience for the men in her life (not unlike Celeste, a character Jones played in 2012's Celeste and Jesse Forever). Simultaneously, Coppola uses Laura to comment on the sexism and misogyny men tend to display. As Rocks progresses, Coppola also confronts some of women’s hang-ups. In a way, Rocks serves as a rough guide for relationships and their complexities without being overdramatic.

Getting back to Jones and her performance – she’s fantastic opposite Murray. Her comedy background prepared her for Murray's antics and she delivers as the adult child (at a personal crossroads) with more maturity than her father. Laura capitalizes on Jones’ strengths which, in turn, balance out Murray’s irresistible performance.

Originally premiering at the New York Film Festival on September 22, 2020, On the Rocks is Coppola’s breeziest effort. Coppola’s previous projects were more dramatic as they bore some heavy burden - whether it’s loneliness, mistrust, the need for attention, or straight up criminal activity. On the Rocks sees Laura carrying some burden, but not at those same depths. Instead, Coppola injected more optimism within her lead character.

In the meantime, Murray is as charming as ever while he used Felix to approach life in a carefree, almost reckless, way. That is what viewers expect from Murray and he delivered almost effortlessly.

The combination of Coppola’s lighter tone, Jones’ grounded turn and Murray’s larger-than-life performance make On the Rocks a sweet, easily digestible treat.

Coppola has a winner on her hands. On the Rocks is not at the level of Lost in Translation, but in all honesty, it’s not expected that any subsequent Coppola-Murray project would eclipse that. It’s evident, though, the pair are on the same level creatively, so any project involving them is all the better for it, including this. In short, On the Rocks is a loveable soul-searching relationship film that highlights the significant the men in women’s lives.

Streaming now on Apple TV+, On the Rocks is charming and mature work from Sofia Coppola.

4 stars out of 5

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