Three-time Academy Award (R) winner Meryl Streep goes electric and takes on a whole new gig – a hard-rocking singer/guitarist – for Oscar (R)-winning director Jonathan Demme and Academy Award (R)-winning screenwriter Diablo Cody in the uplifting comedy Ricki and the Flash. In a film loaded with music and live performance, Streep stars as Ricki, a guitar heroine who gave up everything for her dream of rock-and-roll stardom, but is now returning home to make things right with her family. Streep stars opposite her real-life daughter Mamie Gummer, who plays her fictional daughter; Rick Springfield, who takes on the role of a Flash member in love with Ricki; and Kevin Kline, who portrays Ricki’s long-suffering ex-husband. (C) Tristar
Despite rather melodramatic moments, Ricki and the Flash is anchored by a terrific Meryl Streep performance who commands every second of every scene. I’m hardly a Streep loving fan-boy/fan-girl, but you cannot truly love movies and not at least admire and respect her contributions to the art of cinema. That’s why her fans LOVE her! In Ricki and the Flash, you can’t take your eyes off of Meryl. With her characters circumstances, who works days at organic grocery store Total Foods (which has some biting cultural nudges about that lifestyle) moonlighting as a musician that alienated her family, you begin to sympathize and understand her burdens. This movie could’ve been called Trainwreck just based upon how Ricki has ruined her life. Yet in scenes of comedic payoff or dramatic realism, she still shines even when the movie is uneven and imbalanced.
To my surprise, a strong element in Ricki and the Flash is the very good script from Diablo Cody has a delicate balance between tender reflection and harsh realities. I normally don’t like her yet I will always give kudos to anyone in Hollywood when they earn it. There are some interesting plot developments, character dynamics, and biting one-liners that are cat-nip for the audiences who love stuff like Ricki and the Flash. Director Jonathan Demme makes situations work among the actors within the scenes even during moments when the script disappoints. (The over-the-top dinner table scene in the restaurant and a wedding during the third act both come to mind.)
There is no doubt that Ricki and the Flash is an old-fashioned crowd pleaser. Some critics, not this one, will turn their noses, but neglected older adult audiences will line up to watch Meryl Streep as a rock star. Consider this the AARP summer movie of 2015. Audiences will also like to see Meryl Streep act alongside her daughter, Mamie Gummer, whom bares a striking resemblance to her mother. Rick Springfield’s turn as Ricki’s boyfriend/band mate was a delightful surprise. Ultimately, Ricki and the Flash features Meryl Streep in a unique performance that continues to diversify her resume and stretch her talents as an actress. That is quite an accomplishment in itself. Consider me impressed. Audiences will follow suite.
- I rate Ricki and the Flash - 7/107/10