Ricki and the Flash
Classic Elsternwick - Saturday 29 August 2015, 12:05pm
Running time: 101m
Country: United States
Classification: PG (Mild themes, drug use, sexual references and coarse language)
Release date: 27/08/15
Cost: $10 (Optus Rewards)
Rating: 6/10 (ME 1.5/5, DP 4.5/5)
Oh Ricki, you're so fine...
Ricki Rendazzo (Meryl Streep) is a sixty-something rock chick who gave up everything to chase her dream of rock-and-roll stardom with her band, The Flash...and to this day she is still chasing that dream. By day she works as a cashier in an upmarket grocery store and then by night, she performs cover tunes in LA's dive bars to small but very enthusiastic audiences. She is a woman of contradictions, being at the same time a hippie and holding some strong conservative views. When her ex-husband Pete (Kevin Kline) calls with news of daughter Julie's failed marriage and downward spiral into depression, Ricki agrees to return home to Indianapolis and take on the maternal role she left behind so long ago....at a time when she was known simply as Linda Brummell, suburban mother. The relationship between pyjama wearing and wildly disheveled Julie Mamie Gummer, Meryl Streep's real life daughter) and her mother allows an incredible strength of emotion to come through in all of their interactions, providing so many of the film's highlights. We watch as Ricki slowly becomes reacquainted with her estranged family and their unfamiliar life of comfortable privilege, standing in stark contrast to her own life of struggle and menial work. Despite this contrast, the film still never reverts to clichéd "fish out of water" representations. As they start to spend time together all sorts of long suppressed feelings of resentment, abandonment and inadequacy bubble to the surface once more, particularly apparent in a memorable and exceedingly uncomfortable 'family' dinner scene, where Ricki meets her sons Adam (Nick Westrate) and Josh (Sebastian Stan) for the first time in many years.
Meryl Streep surprises with her guitar playing (apparently she learned to play in just a couple of months) and her strong singing renditions of many classics of the 1970s and 1980s throughout the movie. It really proves Meryl's versatility and that she really can do anything. Other notable performances come from '80s rocker and heart-throb Rick Springfield (think Jessie's Girl) playing Ricki's salt-of-the-earth, but long suffering, boyfriend Greg (who it would have been good to see a bit more of) and also Pete's second wife Maureen (Audra McDonald) with whom Ricki shares some brilliant passive aggressive banter.
Ricki and The Flash is a warm and sympathetic family drama in which the emotions portrayed always feel authentic and open. There are elements of redemption and forgiveness in the story as the runaway rockstar Ricki comes to grips with her past neglect of her family and the family too start to adapt to her unexpected presence. If there is one criticism, it is that while each of the characters is very well established, there is then insufficient time devoted fully to any of them and the resolution of their individual dramas. At times there is a feeling of the film being rushed and only a cursory glance provided into many of the character lives and their motivations. Despite this, it does so much that is right...sometimes sentimental, sometimes comic, sometimes uncomfortable, but always really engaging and very enjoyable. (DP)
All flash but no spark
Apart from another superb performance by Meryl Streep (yes, she is one of the greatest actors ever) I found Ricki and the Flash a tedious film which teased at a complexity that it failed to deliver. Mamie Gummer's heartless and sulky performance was on-script but lacked soul and any real conviction to the role. Kevin Kline is going through the motions but it's a disappointing performance for an actor with so much to offer. The plot is a simple pencil sketch of a story that needed to be fleshed out. The film's highlights (the band's cover of Lady Gaga's Bad Romance is deliciously kitsch) are few and far between with too much screen time devoted to performances at the bar (yep, they're a struggling band; I got that the first time) at the expense of plot or character development. The ending will either have you tearing up with joy or cringing in embarrassment (I was the latter) and left me pondering how good this film could've been. Disappointing. (ME)
2nd Golden Thumbs Awards