“Don’t give your heart to any boy. You’re mine—until you get married. Then you’re still mine.”
Sofia Coppola’s comedy On the Rocks is in some ways a father/daughter road movie in New York City (with a brief excursion to Mexico). It is a relationship movie that looks at two troubled relationships at the same time, and ends up healing them both.
Laura (Rashida Jones) feels like she has a comfortable and happy marriage to Dean (Marlon Wayans), until someone mentions something that raises a hint of doubt about the amount of time he is working late and traveling with his new business associate. Unsure if she should be worried, she calls her globe-trotting, playboy father Felix (Bill Murray), who thinks the signs are obvious. Felix immediately comes back to New York to help Laura find the truth. Felix uses connections to find information, but they also spend time traveling through the city to spy on Dean. When Dean has a sudden trip to a resort in Mexico, Felix hauls Laura down there to confirm everything.
A key to understanding this is that Felix is very experienced in infidelity. He believes that such behavior is inbred in men since early humans. Since he knows his behavior, he reads that in to what he expects from Dean. Felix’s unfaithfulness had an impact on Laura’s family life as a child. Now, he is using this as a chance to reconnect with Laura.
In some ways, this film has some fairly conventional tropes: a workaholic husband who sees that as the way to provide for family, an at-home mom who begins to feel frumpy (at least that’s how Laura dresses). But the humor in the story is really based in the dialogue more than in the events themselves. To be sure, most of the comedy is created by Murray’s persona. The rest of the cast is essentially his straight man throughout.
The whole story is one about trust. When doubt begins to creep in to Laura’s thoughts, her faith in Dean waivers. The only person she feels she can call on is someone who seems very untrustworthy. Felix is full of himself and has gone from woman to woman. But Laura seems to feel that when it comes to his relationship with her, Felix will come through. He may go overboard, but he is going to be sure that Laura knows the truth. In finding the father/daughter relationship anew, Laura becomes ready to find the trust in Dean that she has misplaced.
On the Rock is available on Apple+.