Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5.
USA, 2020. A24, American Zoetrope. Screenplay by Sofia Coppola. Cinematography by Philippe Le Sourd. Produced by Sofia Coppola, Youree Henley. Music by Phoenix. Production Design by Anne Ross. Costume Design by Stacey Battat. Film Editing by Sarah Flack. North Carolina Film Critics Awards 2020.
Sofia Coppola takes everything you know about glamorous romantic movies set in New York City and turns them on their ear: the successful career gal living a glamorous social life is now a blocked writer (Rashida Jones) whose gorgeous Manhattan apartment is only a reminder of how difficult it’s becoming to find meaning in her successful life. The romance is a marriage with Marlon Wayans that is starting to feel stale, in part thanks to the responsibility of raising children, while the glamorous social life is the constant interference by her worldly, art dealer father (Bill Murray) who keeps interrupting her peaceful solitude and then hits on every woman he sees because, as he explains, it’s a biological imperative. When Jones admits to her father that she’s worried that her husband, who is constantly on the road, is having an affair with his gorgeous assistant, Murray insists on turning it into a Harriet The Spy-like adventure, driving her across the city to watch Wayans on his work nights out, then flying down to Mexico during a conference to see if he isn’t perhaps enjoying too much time in his hotel room with the woman in question. Drinks at bars pop up between these capers, as do visits to mother and grandmother that make it impossible for Jones to decide if she is right about Wayans cheating on her or if maybe she’s simply overreacting to the fact that her marriage and her career are in a rut. Light in tone and, as with all of Coppola’s films, brimming over with beautiful images, this elegant charmer has a wonderful relationship at its core, benefiting both from Jones’s exquisite charisma and Murray’s affable humour: you’re on her side throughout the film for holding her dad accountable for the toxic masculinity that ruined her childhood, but you can’t help being won over by him too (and who can resist someone in a red hot convertible roadster carrying his caviar in its own bag?) Coppola manages to give all the darker elements of the story their due without upsetting the overall humour of the piece, and indulges in her ironic takes on rom-com traditions (like having a hilarious Jenny Slate play a woman who swallows and serves empty girlboss platitudes without the slightest self-awareness) without coming across as demeaning. It’s a film that dizzies your head like bubbly champagne and leaves you glad you watch it even though there’s no lasting effect afterwards.