Movie review / ‘On the Rocks’ (M)

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“On the Rocks” (M) ****

THIS is filmmaker Sofia Coppola’s third collaboration with actor Bill Murray. 

For inexplicable reasons, the usual timeline for an upcoming movie got blurred as “On the Rocks” approached its ongoing Canberra season. At last it is here, as much for Fred and Shirley Everage who simply want to be entertained away from the stresses of COVID-19 as for cineastes who like their movies to gently massage their thinking organs. And I am a hybrid of those two audience qualities.

In New York, Laura (Rashida Jones) and Dean (Marlon Wayans) live comfortably, she’s an aspiring writer, he runs a firm that’s on the way up the economic ladder. 

But for Laura, the marriage is becoming uncomfortable. Is Dean being unfaithful? The evidence is building. His company employs several attractive women younger than his wife. 

Where does Laura look for comfort? Not in infidelity but in the company of her father Felix (Murray), a wealthy, high-living playboy with friends at most levels of society and who loves and leaves beautiful women all over town. 

“On the Rocks” is essentially a two-hander as Felix tries to guide Laura in the unhappy task of catching Dean with another woman outside business hours.

The film’s dramatic values are gentle, yet insistent. We sympathise with Laura’s confusion about Felix’s insistence that Dean is playing away. We don’t know whether or not that’s correct. 

By turns gentle, uncompromising, entertaining and discomforting, the story’s progress through this dichotomy takes 97 minutes to resolve before sending us out aware that we have seen a wonderfully satisfying combination of narrative style and gently insistent drama that steers clear of message or unresolvable tension. 

It’s a film to enjoy, to love and to admire. Where, I wonder, will it be when the next bunch of Oscar nominees gets published?

At Palace Electric

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"On the Rocks" (M) ****
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Dougal Macdonald
“CityNews” film reviewer

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