0463 | Ricki And The Flash

Proud Republican Ricki (Meryl Streep) is the singer and The Flash are her backing band in Jonathan Demme’s middling drama, which is hampered by a fairly pedestrian screenplay by Diablo Cody. The basic conceit here is that Ricki skipped out on her family in the 1980s with the dream of becoming a rock star, but after one album her career stalled, and now she’s playing cover versions of other people’s songs (Springsteen, Tom Petty, U2, and so on) in bars with her new act while working during the day as a supermarket cashier. She has entered into a relationship with the guitarist from The Flash, who is played with warmth and charm by Rick Springfield, but her children are frosty towards her at best and her husband, played by a typically unobtrusive Kevin Kline, has remarried. The barroom AOR takes a back seat for the first hour as Ricki leaves Los Angeles to visit her Indianapolis-based family in the wake of a suicide attempt by depressed daughter Julie (Streep’s real-life daughter Mamie Gummer). There are home truths and snide remarks aplenty in these scenes, with a sprinkling of conciliation and bonding, and then Demme gradually lets the music seep back in as Ricki heads home and later turns up to play at her son’s stuffy wedding. This is one of those movies where supposed decades of building resentment and serious current mental health issues can suddenly be put to one side by all and sundry because hey, a story in a film happens to be nearing its end, and yes, that’s mom up there on stage singing to the bride and groom, and although she has her flaws … she’s still mom. As a fucked-up musician character study it doesn’t compare favourably next to similar films, such as Scott Cooper’s Crazy Heart or Dan Fogelman’s equally-lighthearted Danny Collins, and it’s hard to buy into the idea of Streep as a rock n’ roll dreamer, though perhaps that does fit with the character’s own reinvention: Ricki’s real name is actually Linda and her children are embarassed and still slightly perplexed by her clothes, haircut and attitude, which they consider to be affected. That all said Streep clearly goes for it, and her character’s performances on stage look realistic; she learned to play guitar in preparation for the role, and was taught by no less a figure than Neil Young, the subject of a few of Demme’s documentaries.

Directed by: Jonathan Demme.
Written by: Diablo Cody.
Starring: Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline, Mamie Gummer, Rick Springfield, Sebastian Stan, Ben Platt, Audra McDonald.
Cinematography: Declan Quinn.
Editing: Wyatt Smith.
Music: Various.
Certificate: 
12A.
Running Time: 
101 minutes.
Year:
2015.

Comments 2

  1. Cindy Bruchman February 6, 2016

    Stu, nice write up. I don’t know…I just don’t think I can watch this. I’m still trying to forget The Intern. The age flip-flop story line just isn’t sitting with me. Was Streep’s daughter Mamie any good? Has she inherited her mother’s gifts? Talk about big shoes to fill!

    • Stu February 8, 2016

      Thanks very much Cindy. I can’t recommend this other than to people who love watching Streep in anything. Mamie Gummer definitely commands your attention as her illness causes her to rant and make several awkward comments about other family members. It’s an OK performance, and I don’t envy her at all as she will be compared to her mother for a long time, even if she herself does plenty of special work.

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