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How Sofia Coppola and Rashida Jones put their own family lives into 'On the Rocks'

By Mark Olsen, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Entertainment News

LOS ANGELES - It was just another Saturday for a pair of working mothers when Sofia Coppola and Rashida Jones got together on a recent conference call. Jones had been dealing with a flat tire as she was driving from Ojai to Los Angeles. Coppola was in Northern California, concerned about nearby fires as the clatter and chatter of life with a husband and two daughters carried on around her.

They were both preparing to travel to Tuesday night's world premiere of "On the Rocks" as part of the New York Film Festival. The picture is opening in select theaters on Oct. 2, distributed by A24, and then streaming on Apple TV+ starting Oct. 23.

Written and directed by Coppola, the film stars Jones as Laura, a working wife and mother of two young girls living in New York City. With little time to herself, she struggles to write the book she's contracted for and generally feels stuck in a rut when she begins to suspect that her husband, Dean (Marlon Wayans), is having an affair with a co-worker. Enter her dashing, bon vivant father, Felix (Bill Murray), a semi-retired art dealer with a high-flying lifestyle and devil-may-care charisma, who persuades Laura to spy on Dean. Soon, Laura and Felix are sharing long meals over drinks, talking about life and relationships, as they try to get to the bottom of what's up with Dean.

Similar to Coppola's films "Lost in Translation" and "Somewhere," many aspects of "On the Rocks" are drawn from her own life, yet she wouldn't call her work autobiographical. Though yes, she did once catch her father, Oscar-winning filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola, watching "Breaking Bad" with her young children while babysitting, just as Murray does in "On the Rocks."

"When you're writing something personal or original material, I always draw on my life, and it's a way to figure things out," said Coppola. "I started working on (this script) a while ago when my kids were little - just that moment of trying to find my way as a creative working person ... navigating a new moment in my life."

Jones and Coppola met nearly 20 years ago when Jones read what would become Scarlett Johansson's role in "Lost in Translation" during an extended workshop of the script. Their paths crossed socially over the years, and Jones appeared briefly alongside Murray in the Coppola-directed 2015 holiday special "A Very Murray Christmas."

 

The two have more than a few things in common. Coppola is the daughter of a famous filmmaker and has two children with her husband, Thomas Mars, of the band Phoenix. Jones is the daughter of musician Quincy Jones and has a child with Ezra Koenig of the band Vampire Weekend.

"I feel like we have things in common just about stages of life," said Jones. "The conversations that we've had as friends about processing certain moments in life, and the era of being a woman of a certain age who has a family on both sides, both generations, and kind of juggling identity relative to other people.

"Once you've gotten to a certain point in your career and you actually have these things that are seemingly wonderful surrounding you - what's your true purpose and how is that unique to you and not connected to all the people that surround you all the time? I think it's something that a lot of people grapple with, and certainly women."

"On the Rocks" is Coppola's most straightforwardly comedic film - she mentions the work of Blake Edwards and banter-fueled classic screwball comedies as reference points. Yet even while Felix and Laura speed about the city eating caviar in a convertible, their conversations are often quite vulnerable and heartfelt - the sort of exchanges you expect in the filmmaker's work.

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