By John Mulderig
NEW YORK (CNS) — Understated in its approach and mature in its values, the low-key comedy “On the Rocks” (A24/Apple TV+) is an amiable enterprise suitable for a grown audience.
In fact, it could have been an instructive film for teens as well were it not for a single burst of F-bombs from an extraneous source.
Even this momentary descent into vulgarity, however, does make sense in context. It comes from a standup routine by Chris Rock as he complains about postmarital sexual life. It thus fits the mood of the movie’s protagonist, overworked New York writer and mom Laura (Rashida Jones), as she watches it on TV.
Laura is a dedicated, hardworking spouse and parent for whom the ups and downs of her daily routine have taken the place of the adventurous romantic bond she once shared with her husband, Dean (Marlon Wayans). Fearful that they have fallen into a rut, she is sensitive — perhaps overly so — to any alteration in Dean’s behavior.
As a result, when little incidents begin to suggest that Dean, a successful executive who often travels for business, is having an affair with his co-worker Fiona (Jessica Henwick), Laura is all too willing to believe the worst.
Somewhat reluctantly, she enlists the help of her father, Felix (Bill Murray), a globetrotting, well-connected art dealer. Together the two embark on an investigation of Dean’s activities that eventually degenerates into a series of misadventures.
A philanderer himself, Felix not only suspects Dean but maintains that no man can really sustain a monogamous relationship. Though he dotes on Laura, and purports to be rescuing her from her unworthy mate, the undertones of the dialogue suggest that Felix would not be unhappy to see his daughter’s marriage collapse. His motivation in this is not maliciousness but a subtle desire for self-justification.
As written and directed by Sofia Coppola, “On the Rocks” sometimes feels as though meager material is being stretched out to fit feature length. But her script’s affirmation that committed marriage is ultimately more rewarding than the apparently glamorous but emotionally empty lifestyle to which bon vivant Felix has become accustomed will be welcomed by viewers of faith.
The film contains at least one use of profanity, a few milder oaths, a handful of rough and crude terms and discussions of sexuality. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association rating is R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.
John Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.