Ricki and the Flash
Starring Meryl Streep, Mamie Gummer, Kevin Kline, Rick Springfield, Audra McDonald,
Director Jonathan Demme is as unpredictable as when his film “Silence of the Lambs” took best picture at the Oscars by surprise in 1992. Sparse has been the films he has made since then, hits like “Rachel Getting Married”, and misses like “The Manchurian Candidate” remake (also with Streep).
Certainly no stranger for promoting strong female characters or exploring the destructiveness of family, “Ricki and the Flash” is his lightest film since 1988’s “Married to the Mob”. Streep follows up her impressive and evolving vocal range from last years “Into the Woods” here as a deep raspy rocker. Structurally “Ricki and the Flash”, written by Diablo Cody (“Juno”) isn’t the strongest film, yet when the conversations turn to regret, acceptance and forgiveness the narrative finds the right beat.
Ricki (Streep) left behind her entire like back in Indianapolis when she moved to California in pursuit of her musical career. Now the penniless and aging rocker is summoned home by ex-husband Pete (Kline), to bring comfort to their daughter suffering through a divorce and psychotic breakdown.
Failing to attend her daughter’s wedding, seeing her family once a year, Ricki isn’t sure of her place in the evolving tragedy. Yet something about being together with the entire family, including two sons, one of which is recently engaged, help Ricki understand what she has been missing. Unapologetic for who she is and her decisions, Ricki comes to understand this might be her moment to finally help the family understand her passion for music.
It’s never as exciting or stressful as August: Osage County, but there are moments of tension that ground the story in reality.
I laughed under my breather a bit that Demme would open “Ricki and the Flash” with “American Girl”, the same song Catherine (Brooke Smith) sang prior to her kidnapping in “Silence of the Lambs”. While the film is certainly geared towards a more mature crowd, it was a little disappointing that the film cuts away just as Streep starts to cover Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance”.
Streep’s latest film transformation is most interesting when she appears a fish out of water in the Indiana scenes. The screen time devoted to her grocery store clerk job or sad preforming gig at a local hotel bar only cause the viewer to contemplate when she will return to the family dynamic. It’s never as exciting or stressful as August: Osage County, but there are moments of tension that ground the story in reality.
“Ricki and the Flash” isn’t as funny as many probably think it should be, nor is it as dramatic and emotional as I kept hoping it would get. Instead it waddles in middle ground, allowing us to enjoy the music, admire Streep’s talent and walk away with a pleasant experience. As mother’s go, Streep has played all shapes and sizes, this is just another in her collection and because of her popularity, might even earn a spot in the Golden Globes best comedy/musical category, but this isn’t award winning Streep material. “Ricki and the Flash” is still important however, it’s one of the few films of the summer that isn’t filled with special effects or eager to reboot a franchise.
When the story gets serious it’s good, otherwise just enjoy Streep rocking out.