Ricki and the Flash
Written by Diablo Cody
Directed by Jonathan Demme
Starring Meryl Streep, Mamie Gummer, Rick Springfield and Kevin Kline
Rating 3.5 / 5
Meryl Streep can now play solid rock guitar, wail and swagger like a rocker and that’s another feather in her cap. The woman is amazing, how does her brain work that she can assume diverse roles so deeply that she changes everything about herself?
Soft spoken, feminine and graceful Streep is transformed. Ricki’s voice is deep, whiskey and cigarette soaked from the road, she walks like someone used to swaying to the beat and she has tiny telling behaviours that indicate the personality of an eccentric a little worn down but still kicking.
Streep is again astounding. She puts in the work each and every time. As Ricki releases, Streep is at the end of a six month opera singing curve for another film. What other actor has managed to assume other fully functional identities for as long and as well as she? Her work is the compelling reason to see Ricki and the Flash.
Ricki the rock star is heading to Indiana to be reunited with her ex-husband (Kline) their children and stepmother to solve a family problem, the deep depression into which her daughter Julie (Gummer – Streep’s actual daughter) falls when her husband dumps her for a workmate.
It’s a potentially disastrous situation. There’s little connection and plenty of anger between Ricki and the family. She abandoned them as toddlers to pursue her rock and roll ambitions in Los Angeles and never mended the rift. She feels sentimental about them but was clearly not compelled to fight for them when faced by the new mom – when she wanted them.
The children were raised by a conventional and forceful stepmom (Audra McDonald) and no longer consider Ricki their mother. It comes out during an emotionally charged family dinner at a local restaurant that her son Josh who is about to be married, doesn’t want her to attend. Her other son outright loathes her.
But Julie is open and drawn to Ricki’s warmth and hard-won wisdom and begins to come out of the darkness. And it’s no charm offensive, Ricki’s’ authenticity and goodness shines through – at least to Julie. Ricki sees what she’s been missing but too much time has passed to be able to mend things, or so she believes.
Ricki’s other life in LA is worlds apart; she’s broke, bags groceries by day and performs in the bar at night with her band. She’s a local celebrity, adored by the wait staff and by the lead guitarist (Springfield). It’s an okay life she understands it but she’d like to better it. When she sees how privileged her family is it sets her back a little. She sacrificed a lot to follow the music.
The music sequences are terrific. The band (Joe Vitale, Bernie Worrell, and the late Rick Rosas) covers the favourites and writes some new stuff and do they know how to play. The energy is contagious.
The family sequences move along well. The plotting is a little conventional especially for Diablo Cody but there’s little dead air. But all is forgiven because of the irresistible Meryl.
It’s a successful story about failure, redemption and the power of love. Ricki and the Flash won’t be of interest to some demographics but there is much for others to enjoy, and to remember the music and marvel at Streep’s endless bounty of talents.