Movie Review: Bill Murray and Rashida Jones, a father and daughter “On the Rocks”

I can’t speak for everyone, but the next time I’m on a stakeout, I’m damn sure bringing Bill Murray.

Talk him into driving a 1960 Alfa Romeo Giuletta. Maybe he’ll show up with a gourmet picnic, caviar and a bottle of Gran Cru something-or-other, and a lot of cynical, witty wisdom about love and marriage.

“Women — you can’t live with’em, can’t live without’em. But that doesn’t mean you have to LIVE with them.”

Bill plays a version of the Murray of myth in Sofia Coppola’s best film in years, “On the Rocks.” His art dealer character’s charming and flip, knows every concierge and maitre d’, remembers every name he hears the first time he hears it, can talk has way into a table or out of a traffic ticket (see “Giuletta, Alfa Romeo”). And you never know where he”ll turn up.

That’s the image the Internet has made for Murray.

Seeing him as this touching, tetchy and very funny father trying to help allay daughter Laura’s (Rashida Jones) suspicions about her now always-working husband (Marlon Wayans) by convincing her to spy on him two simple facts become clear.

It’s a shame that he doesn’t get to make every movie with Sofia Coppola (“Lost in Translation”). And if she’s smart, she’ll never make a movie without him, as long as he’s up to it.

“On the Rocks” is a Manhattan movie that ambles along in Woody-Allen-Without-Many-Laughs fashion for a good half hour before Murray, as dapper, rich and semi-retired Felix Keane turns up and takes over.

That’s easy to do, because everybody seems to take Laura for granted. We see her giddy wedding day, but the married life routine a decade later is drab and and Laura herself is put upon. She’s a novelist with no time or motivation to write. She’s the sort every other mother at school (Jenny Slate, for instance) buttonholes to suck up precious minutes in long, narcissistic monologues.

“Why aren’t males more ornamental? I mean, they’re functional. We NEED them to put furniture together.”

Laura bears all this, and the ways hubby Dean keeps brushing off her plans to get a deposit down on a house and fret over their youngest getting into pre-school. But there are other clues that suggest maybe Dean’s “traveling for work” is a lot less work and a lot more getting around.

Enter Dad, eternal cynic, constant flirt and sage spokesman for The Way Men Are. Endless random observations about “when humans were all fours” and evolution decreed that they’d always “impregnate” every female they could, how “adolescent females” were more desirable because they were easier to catch and “dominate” pepper his half of their conversations about her marriage.

“At some point, we can make a decision about whether to tap his phone.”

Laura, the one daughter who still stays in contact with the father who cheated on their mother, is putty in Felix’s hands as he badgers her into whistling the theme song to the movie “Laura,” which is where he came up with her name. He pushes her to “check his phone,” and eventually, the Alfa Romeo comes out for that stakeout.

Jones, a winsome, vulnerable presence, doesn’t give us a whole long to hang onto here. She may be a woman wronged, but Laura is so buttoned down and unsure of what to do that she could not feel more real.

Yeah, this is the way most of us would react to that suspicion — deflated, confused, lost.

The fact that she and Wayans don’t have much chemistry –his character is thinly developed and blandly-played — leaves the movie in Murray’s hands. And he saves it.

Felix sings “Mexicali Rose,” confidently drops less-than-fluent phrases in Russian (for a ballet dancer waitress) and French, and takes over every room the way Murray dominates every scene.

“It must be great to be you!”

“I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

It’s a seductive, amusing and beguiling turn, with perhaps an Oscar nomination in it. And it’s message is clear, to our director and her muse.

When the persona becomes legend, play the legend.

MPAA Rating: R for some language/sexual references

Cast: Rashida Jones, Bill Murray, Marlon Wayans, Jessica Henwick and Jenny Slate,

Credits: Written and directed by Sofia Coppola. An A24 release, coming to Apple TV.

Running time: 1:37

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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