Sunday, October 25, 2020

Daddy's Home: ON THE ROCKS

Sofia Coppola’s On the Rocks could be called a sitcom farce if it had some more pep in its step. As it is, it’s slow-drip farce, a low-key look at a middle-aged married woman with doubts (Rashida Jones) and her rascally womanizing father (Bill Murray) who flies into town and encourages her doubts in order to spend time with her. It’s sweet, sad, and sentimental as the two of them tool around New York City trying to figure out if her husband (Marlon Wayans) is cheating on her. Like a minor B-side to Coppola’s great father/daughter picture Somewhere—where there a womanizing movie star father is slowly, potentially, pulled out of his ennui by taking care of his daughter for a while—this new movie finds the push-and-pull of a warm but contentious familial relationship a source of strength and consternation. Coppola is such an astute observer of human behavior, and finds a dreamy specificity in her pin-prick precise production design, so perfectly right it looks tossed off and casual. Because of this, her airy and breezy approach to a situational comedy of this sort looks easy. It has the cheery rhythms of repartee at half speed, a lived-in prickly warmth between a charmingly disappointing —or disappointingly charming—father and his slightly stressed daughter, whose insecurities surely must come, in part, from her dad’s approach to women. “You can’t live without them,” he says, “but you don’t have to live with them.” He says it not like a punchline, but as a bromide the old fellow has surely dusted off one too many times before. The whole project balances on this sparkling smallness, on subtle turns of phrase and shifts of mood. Here’s a portrait of love, aging, and family that’s sweet and sad. Without pressing down too overtly, it becomes a deceptively light domestic drama hidden just under the quotidian daily routine and dilemmas—drop offs and pick-ups, lunches and dinners, RSVPs and random catch-ups, babysitters and cabs—and the naturally paced development about what lesser hands would escalate to unreal crescendos. Coppola’s a sharp filmmaker, and here finds a generously slight picture of uncomfortably comfortable middle age, its discontents, and its pleasures. No wonder a key recurring image is that of a gifted watch, for the older you get, the more you realize the greatest present you can give someone else is your time.

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