I was worried about this movie. I’ve always felt Sofia Coppola was an overrated filmmaker. With Lost in Translation, people either loved it or hated it. I thought it was okay. The whispering bit was lazy and not profound in the least. While it was fun to speculate what was in the suitcase in Pulp Fiction, speculating as to what Murray could have whispered to Scarlett Johansson…was just silly.
Well, Coppola has Bill Murray back and it’s the first film the always terrific A24 has done in conjunction with Apple for original films. I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
Now what’s both beautiful, and also frustrating for a woman having marital problems — is dealing with her aging playboy dad. He might mean well, and we might watch this thinking how great it would be to have Bill Murray as a dad we could go drinking with. It’s exhausting for her, and we understand why.
Laura is played by Rashida Jones, and while it’s going to be Murray that gets all the praise for this, he’s just being Bill Murray. Jones has to play a woman that is sometimes cute; sometimes a frumpy housewife picking up the kids’ toys on the floor. She has to be bored by the endless goofball stories from another parent at school (played nicely by Jenny Slate).
These two are terrific together. There are the funny moments you’d expect. In one of the stories Felix (Murray) tells about a Corsican woman who wanted him to pull her hair, and he says, “That just isn’t me.” Her response to this story is hysterical. It’s simply: “A Corsican?”
And when she finally confronts him about his lothario ways, and why he cheated on her mom — he has an angry look on his face, as if to wonder why she’s even going there. And while his answer to this may be a bit cliche, it works. In fact, everything in this film works.
Marlon Wayans plays Dean. He’s the perfect guy. He plays well with the kids, he’s affectionate with his wife (well, when he doesn’t fall asleep in bed when they’re getting romantic). Yet he suddenly starts spending more time at work, with a new, leggy co-worker named Fiona (Jessica Henwick). Dad plants the seeds that he may be cheating, and hijinks ensue.
It’s funny, I just bought the book The World According to Garp (one of my favorite movies) and was re-reading it and forgot about how Jenny Fields (Glenn Close in the film) thinks all men are merely filled with lust. Felix spouts off a lot of philosophy about this, and that just rattles his daughter all the more. And she asks some interesting, probing questions about how a wife can keep her husband interested in her.
They have interesting conversations at various parties and bars. And there’s nothing like watching Felix slyly leave a party by walking backwards, so “nobody notices” or watching him cut people off in his red, early ‘60s Mercedes Roadster. You smile just watching him sipping martinis at the famous Carlyle Hotel, with the backdrop of Hungarian artist Marcel Vertes’ drawings on the wall. Fitting, since he apparently got rich dealing high end art.
When they’re not high-tailing a car in the Benz, it’s another Benz with a driver, who occasionally has an interesting line or two (he mentions a hotel the husband might be cheating at, as conveniently having “three different exits”).
What really makes the Felix character work is that it wasn’t over-written. He doesn’t come off as a BS artist. Well, okay…some of his philosophies about courting rituals do. Yet when he’s talking to people, he’s not over-the-top. He’s smart and witty, and the life of the party. His daughter has reason to resent him a bit, but all those people he knows (or meets), don’t. So they enjoy his presence. Just as we do watching him. And she does call him on his BS, although I do think she’s wrong when she claims his flirting with every woman he meets is “disgusting.” He’s an older guy being humorous. He’s not seriously trying to get a 25-year-old waitress into bed. He’s just exuding the same charm he has his entire life. He flirts with women on auto-pilot.
I love that Coppola showed a clip of Chris Rock early in the movie, talking about what sex is like in marriage. It was a perfect way to show what point of the marriage this couple was in. So often filmmakers will just take famous comedians’ routines like this, and write it into dialogue. I’ve noticed it many times, and wonder why the comedians don’t sue. It was refreshing that this time, the comedian was shown on TV doing it himself.
While it was fun watching Felix talk his way out of a ticket, or singing badly (is Murray required to sing in all his movies now?), my favorite moment was when he is leaving his adorable grand daughters’ house and tells them he loves them, but “The tallest one the most. And each following kid in descending order.”
While there may be a few cliche scenes and moments, Coppola doesn’t try to make it so profound. A father and daughter are re-connecting, over an unfortunate situation — and they discuss it. She may check his phone for texts from her, and feel relieved there aren’t any. Until dad says that’s more suspicious, as they work together and there should be a few from her.
This is an easy going film that’s light and breezy. My wife and I really enjoyed it (and she hated Lost in Translation). And while the car chase scenes in Tenet were spectacular, I think I enjoyed it a bit more watching Bill Murray racing through traffic with the top down, a flat cap, and cursing at drivers as he passes.
This is going to be showing at the Landmark in Hillcrest on October 2nd, and Apple TV+ in late October.
4 stars out of 5.