On The Rocks

In Australian Palace Cinemas from October 2; Apple+ from October 23.

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Daddy daughter date.

Sofia Coppola re-teams with her Lost In Translation star Bill Murray, writing him a role he seems to play effortlessly, and his seeming effortlessness is our reward and the principle joy of On The Rocks, a New York upper-crust soufflé that goes down easy.

Rashida Jones plays Murray’s daughter, Laura, an author and mother of two girls who has vague suspicions her husband (Marlon Wayans) may be having an affair with a colleague. Murray’s Felix, a divorced, semi-retired art dealer of ways and means (he has a full-time driver and knows everyone in a certain circle of Manhattan), upon hearing of her suspicions, stokes them, leading the pair on a loosely-goose chase to uncover the truth. Along the way, they have cocktails, talk lovingly, and hash out a couple of things from the past.

It’s a charming, old-fashioned, innocent film, deliberately untethered from America’s problems (there is no hint at all that the country is in any kind of trouble: this is the Manhattan of Woody Allen, whose influence is clear in the film’s tone, style and plotting). It seems to aspire to no greater thematic reverberation than a delightful take on fathers and daughters – the actual dilemma at the heart of the film, the potential affair, is the dramatic weakest link – and that’s fine and dandy. The film’s timelessness, ease and modesty are most of its charms, but its greatest, irrefutably, is Murray, who is also its raison d’être. Delightfully calm.

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Coppola directs Murray. Like he needs it.

St. Vincent

** (out of five)

St_Vincent_posterContrived and melodramatic, Theodore Melfi’s debut feature St. Vincent is a desperate, “look at me!” example of screenwriting-by-numbers. Every possible story beat is walloped within an inch of its pre-programmed life: you’re meant to cry at minute eighty-nine, but by god you’re gonna cheer at minute ninety-four!

Bill Murray, in an Oscar-baiting performance, is very good, as is Naomi Watts (as a hooker with a heart of gold!), and that’s it. They’re doing their best in a seriously derivative, predictable and frankly schmaltzy tale of an old Brooklyn boozer, Vincent, who starts looking after the enjoyably upbeat son of his new neighbour, Maggie (Melissa McCarthy, the most over-rated actress in Hollywood, again delivering a completely unbelievable performance, alongside her ludicrous Tammy, also of 2014).

The kid is played by a genial fellow named Jaeden Lieberher, and he’s fine, and the scenes between him and Murray have no essential problems in the acting department. It’s the script that is terrible. The only reason you won’t be able to predict each of the gazillion creaky plot twists is because you’ll be astounded, in this day and age, that someone made such an obvious, over-used, creaky, old-fashioned, easy choice. Spoiler alert: just when you thought things couldn’t get worse, Vincent has a stroke. Cue acting. Sorry, Bill; they’re not gonna give you an Oscar for this.