Starring: Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline, Mamie Gummer, Rick Springfield, Sebastian Stan
Directed by: Jonathan Demme
Cert: 12A Running Time: 101 mins
Meryl Streep has covered the spectrum of guises over her near 40 year film career but her fearlessness shows no signs of abating as she takes on the role of Ricki, a never-quite-made-it musician who at 66 is still playing dive bars in LA with her band The Flash. With a swish of her half plaited hair and her many ringed fingers (Streep’s own wardrobe choices), she shows us she’s got the goods to pull it off with a rock star voice and stage presence that would fill Madison Square Garden. How well the film works is down to her performance and how much you believe her will depend entirely on how you enjoy the movie.
Written by Diablo Cody (Juno), who based the character of Ricki on her own mother-in-law, who plays in a band on the Jersey Shore, the film tackles the question of how difficult it is for women with children to follow their dreams. Ricki chose her music career over raising her family, chasing a dream that would distance her from a family who would now rather forget that she exists. When she gets a call from her ex-husband Pete (Kevin Kline) telling her that their daughter Julie’s marriage has broken up and she’s in a bad way, she is catapulted back into suburbia and must at last face the music at home.
Streep’s real life daughter, Mamie Gummer stars as the unravelling Julie and it’s both a novelty and a treat to watch them play off each other, making the relationship all the more real and poignant. There is delight to had in their spiky exchanges as Julie is more than a match for Ricki. A scene where the whole family go to dinner in a fancy restaurant, Ricki looking like she just walked off stage and Julie looking like a crazed hobo in her jammies and matted hair, is hilarious with Cody’s dialogue as sharp as razor wire.
At one point Ricki makes the case on stage that while fathers can go off and be rock stars, mothers will be punished for it and it’s an interesting point and a real bug bear for Ricki. She loves her music but she also loves her kids. Cody is making an interesting point but amid the train wreck of Ricki’s family life you can see the carnage that’s resulted from her choice.
The film eases a little off the edge as it continues but is nonetheless entertaining. Ricki is in a relationship with her lead guitarist Greg (played by musician and actor Rick Springfield) and he and Streep make a solid pairing on stage and off. However, it’s as if director Jonathan Demme is too keen to showcase their talents as we’re treated to full songs as opposed to snippets on stage and you feel perhaps the point is made too strongly that the cast are singing and playing their own tunes.
At its heart, Ricki and The Flash is a feel-good movie with an edgy turn from its leading lady and like a band on stage at your local bar, it exists purely to get your toe-tapping and bring a smile to your face as it entertains you for the night. Where else would you hear Meryl Streep sing Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance?