Film Review: ‘Ricki and the Flash’ (2015)

ricki

“Ricki and the Flash”: You go for Meryl Streep and you stay for Meryl Streep.

It’s redundant at this point to talk about Streep’s greatness but somehow it is constantly worth repeating. Her impressive, storied career has never produced a performance like the last and her work in “Ricki and the Flash” is no different. She fully commits herself to the role of Ricki, a woman of a certain age, who tried to pursue her dreams of being a rocker and sacrificed her family in the process.

Ricki spends her days checking groceries out at a Total Foods but spends her night performing at a local watering hole with her band “The Flash”, including lead guitarist and maybe boyfriend, Greg (Rick Springfield). She gets a call from her ex-husband, Pete (Kevin Kline, making for a nice “Sophie’s Choice” reunion), who informs her that their daughter, Julie (Mamie Gummer, Streep’s real-life daughter), is going through a divorce. Her husband walked out on her for another woman and she is completely devastated, walking around like a zombie, dressed in her pajamas and refusing to shower.

Ricki – or Linda, as her family knows her – hasn’t been home in some time. Pete has started a new life with his wife Maureen (Audra McDonald), who has been more of a mom to Ricki and Pete’s kids then Ricki has. When Ricki gets home, she’s a fish out of water. Her one son, Adam (Nick Westrate) wants little to do with her, and her other son, Josh (Sebastian Stan), is getting married and hasn’t invited Ricki yet. It’s going to take some time for everyone to open up to mom.

Even when her entire family seems against her, writer Diablo Cody’s script never forces an opinion about Ricki on the audience. It would be easy to condemn her for being so absent in her children’s lives but the movie doesn’t play out that way. Conversely, the movie never victimizes Ricki, who just wanted to pursue her dream of being a rocker at any cost. This is a flawed woman who has made mistakes and poor choices. Who hasn’t?

Cody’s script doesn’t always make the best decisions, however. The movie is often unfocused, being about one thing in the first act, and something else in the last two. It’s a bit scattershot and thrown together, never always giving enough closure to any of the characters and the audience.

Even when “Ricki and the Flash” follows a familiar trajectory, taking us down a well-trodden path, Streep continues to make it a watchable, in the moment film. It’s great to see the actress have such fun getting to rock out and sing some great songs. It’s pleasant but forgettable, often shying away from the conflicts and confrontations that could have made it a more involving picture.

‘Ricki and the Flash’ rates 5 out of 10

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