It’s nothing that you don’t already know: Meryl Streep can do anything. And as if you needed proof, here is Ricki and the Flash (opening today).
On paper, nothing about Diablo Cody’s script should work…and some of it doesn’t. Streep plays an aged rocker-mother who now goes by the name Ricki, who works primarily at a dive bar night in, night out. She left her marriage and family years ago to follow her dreams of becoming a rock-star and it hasn’t quite panned out. She is in a tumultuous relationship with her lead guitar player Greg (Rick Springfield, yes that Rick Springfield), but the two do seem to have somewhat of a deep kindred spiritual connection.
Ricki is summoned back into her old life when she is contacted by her ex-husband, the buttoned-up Pete (Kevin Kline), when their daughter, Julie (Mamie Gummer, Streep’s real-life daughter) becomes suicidal after her husband leaves her only a few months into their marriage.
Despite the premise, the film is fully optimistic and light-hearted, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t things being examined under the surface. Mainly, this is a film that explores a dysfunctional family, and a mother who was willing to risk everything she had to chase her dream…a dream that never quite materialized. Many times, the predictable premise ends up going in directions that we didn’t quite anticipate. It ends up in the same place, but takes a somewhat unusual path to get there.
Streep turns a cartoon caricature into flesh and blood. It gets old to heap praise upon her, but each dose is well-deserved. Here, she doesn’t turn in an Oscar-worthy performance, but she does elevate a character and a script much higher than either would have reached otherwise. Her two romantic counter-parts, Kline and Springfield, both turn in great understated performances as well. Kline may be the best scene partner in movies, always contributing, never overshadowing, his fellow actors.
Where we think this might end up being some sort of a love story, or a mother/daughter tale, Ricki and the Flash ends up being a film about finding the right person, and making peace with him/her. Late in the film, Ricki communicates more with Greg on-stage, while singing, than she could ever communicate with any other individual outside of the spotlight. Give credit to Cody’s script, but mostly Streep’s performance, that she is able to communicate such emotion and such nuance.
Ricki and the Flash isn’t great, but it shouldn’t have even been good. Streep, in case you weren’t aware, is the real deal.
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Music
Run Time: 1 hours, 42 minutes, Rated PG-13
Starring: Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline, Mamie Gummer, Rick Springfield
Written by Diablo Cody (Juno, Young Adult)
Directed by Jonathan Demme (Rachel Getting Married, The Truth About Charlie, Silence of the Lambs)
Opens locally on Friday, Aug 7, 2015 (check for show times).