Writer-director Sofia Coppola re-teams with her Lost in Translation”star Bill Murray for On the Rocks, a New York-set father-daughter dramedy costarring Rashida Jones. Murray plays womanizer, bon vivant and high end art dealer Felix who tools around in a chauffeured car, constantly dropping in on his daughter Laura (Jones), a non-productive writer conveniently working off an advance, who lives in SoHo with workaholic husband Dean (Marlon Wayans) and their two young daughters. Felix, who flirts with every woman he sees — even, somewhat creepily, Laura on occasion — would be insufferable if not for Murray ’s familiar deadpan delivery and patented shtick.
But even Murray’s performance starts to wear with a plot this thin. It hinges on Laura’s suspicion that Dean, who’s launched a new business and often works late with an attractive female co-worker, may be having an affair. Felix jumps at the chance to prove all men are cads because he’s one himself. Soon, Felix is escorting Laura, who never seems to have a problem finding childcare even at the last minute, around the city tailing the unsuspecting Dean. It’s amusing to watch Murray and Jones dine on caviar while spying on Dean and or to accompany them to the lush Bemelmans Bar at the Cafe Carlyle on the Upper East Side for martinis.
But with so little actually happening, it falls to the able actors to stretch out such marginally funny bits like Felix smooth talking his way out of a traffic ticket. Jenny Slate as a self-centered mom who repeatedly corners Laura as they drop their kids at school manages to steal a few laughs. But even this character ends up a cliche after she shows up a second and third time. When Felix, who never really works and has money to burn, whisks Laura off to Mexico where Dean is attending a conference, the movie starts to strain credulity despite the likable performances of Jones and Murray.
On the Rocks isn’t a bad way to spend 90 minutes. But it often feels like recycled Woody Allen. Although the racial diversity in the movie is a welcome change from Allen’s New York, the characters’ problems still seem steeped in privilege. Coming from a filmmaker as talented as Sofia Coppola, that is disappointing.