If you could bottle movie star charm like a fine wine, Bill Murray could easily be the world’s single largest source. He’s the reason writer / director Sofia Coppola‘s “On the Rocks” is saved from becoming another discarded, flaccid dramedy. The film isn’t one of the writer / director’s best efforts, but what started out as an insufferable story about New York City elites quickly grew on me because of Murray.
Thirtysomething mommy and writer Laura (Rashida Jones) is faced with sudden doubts about her marriage when her husband (Marlon Wayans) starts spending more and more time away from home. Desperate for answers, Laura teams up with her playboy art dealer father Felix (Murray) to tail the suspected cheater. The duo traverse the city in a series of adventures as they become their own private investigators. In the process, dad and daughter rekindle some much-needed family bonding.
Coppola has written a very thin outline that forms her plot, but the misadventures the lead characters go through are engaging, thanks in large part to the warm, organic chemistry between Jones and Murray. Nothing compelling really happens in the story, so the film feels bland and pointless. The characters are superficial and whiny, making it extremely difficult to care about what happens to them. Some of the scenes that are obviously set up to be funny (like Jenny Slate as a talkative, inattentive mom) are extra irritating because they’re for a very specific audience, and the frivolous plight of affluent city dwellers tends to ring hollow to the rest of us.
There’s still a lot to like, mostly credited to Murray’s delightful riffing and endearing onscreen persona. I get the feeling he’s playing himself in this film, and he steals the show. Coppola may not have assembled a memorable movie with “On the Rocks,” but she presents an honest understanding of human relationships and family dynamics that’s worth checking out.