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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that On the Rocks is award-winning writer-director Sofia Coppola's dramedy about a married woman (Rashida Jones) who teams up with her eccentric father (Bill Murray) to investigate whether her husband (Marlon Wayans) is having an affair. There's some mature conversation about adult relationships, marriage, fidelity, monogamy, and adultery. The stability of an established marriage is the main theme of the movie, but the relationship between a father and his adult daughter is also explored. Strong language, while infrequent, includes a clip from a famous Chris Rock routine, with several uses of "f--k," and there are glimpses or discussions of high-end luxury brands like Mercedes, Cartier, and Rodarte. While nothing gets too racy, there are lots of conversations about sex, intimacy, and what drives people (men in particular) to commit adultery. Characters drink, sometimes to excess.
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What's the story?
In writer-director Sofia Coppola's dramedy ON THE ROCKS, Laura (Rashida Jones), a New York City writer and married mother of two, starts to suspect that her workaholic husband, Dean (Marlon Wayans), might be having an affair with his assistant. Worried that their love life is, like the title says, on shaky ground, Laura is encouraged by her rich, quirky, and notoriously womanizing father, Felix (Bill Murray), to spy on Dean and confirm that her suspicions aren't just paranoia. After all, as Felix points out repeatedly, males just aren't biologically conditioned to be monogamous. With her dad's help, Laura starts to snoop, follow, and investigate whether Dean is telling her the truth about his whereabouts.
Is it any good?
Jones and the always entertaining Murray have a charming rapport, and the supporting characters all stand out, but Coppola's marriage-in-the-city dramedy is thinner than expected. Part caper, part relationship drama, part slice-of-life look at how privileged, 30-something New Yorkers deal with their marriages and children, the movie can be fun, particularly once Murray appears on-screen to chew up the scenery with his charm. But audiences expecting Marriage Story-level revelations should be warned: On the Rocks isn't nearly as substantive -- or heartbreaking. That's not necessarily a bad thing, of course, because that can be exhausting for a viewer, but Coppola is capable of extraordinary films, and this one falls short in comparison with others in her filmography.
On its own merits, the movie shines brightest when it's focused solely on Laura and Felix -- since Dean is too busy working and possibly having an affair to be a fully fleshed-out character. Another one of the best parts of the movie is the hilarious daily interaction between Laura and an oversharing, socially clueless mother (played by Jenny Slate) at her child's preschool. Slate's character, who's single, is all too eager to regale a put-upon Laura with every thought in her head about her love life. Laura, meanwhile, doesn't seem to have actual friends. Instead, she tells her father intimate details about her marriage. While that doesn't feel quite believable, Murray is a delight, as always, even as he tries to give anthropological and biological rationale for infidelity (including his own). For a well-acted and frothy dramedy, On the Rocks is just right, but it's not the sort of Coppola film that stays with you after the credits roll.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how On the Rocks depicts marital relationships in general. Why do you think topics such as affairs, divorce, sex, and monogamy are dealt with so frequently in movies and popular culture?
How is socioeconomic class depicted in the movie? How does Felix's privilege make him charming and help him get out of trouble? Would everyone be able to pull that off? Why, or why not?
- In theaters: October 2, 2020
- On DVD or streaming: October 23, 2020
- Cast: Rashida Jones, Bill Murray, Marlon Wayans
- Director: Sofia Coppola
- Studios: A24, Apple TV+
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Misfits and Underdogs
- Character strengths: Perseverance
- Run time: 96 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: some language/sexual references
- Last updated: October 21, 2020
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