‘Ricki and the Flash’
At the Theater with Audrey Linden
Under direction of Jonathan Demme, with a script by Diablo Cody, Meryl Streep had done it again in her performance as lead singer, Ricki/Linda. Rick Springfield as Greg adds the touch of sweetness needed to balance Streep’s Ricki. Kevin Kline as Ricki’s ex-husband was underused. His performance was laid back, and lacked the oomph of his usual comedic or dramatic genius. Kline and Streep had been paired up in 1982 for Alan Pakula’s profound ‘Sophie’s Choice’. They had such chemistry in that moving film. It put both of these fine actors on the road to stardom.
Streep learned to play the guitar and did her own singing and eclipsed her performance in ‘Mama Mia’.
She was utterly convincing as the rocker diva down on her luck. Ricki had a dream when she had been married to Pete (Kline) and to be true to her dream of being a lead singer, she could not be the at-home mother to her three children as she set off for California to pursue her career. Her marriage to the anal retentive Pete suffered as did her relationship with her two sons and her daughter. And, when Pete divorced her and married Maureen, well-acted by Audra Mc Donald, Ricki became s stranger to her children who were raised by Maureen. It was not clear what Maureen did, if she had a career or was a stay-at-home mother. It also was not clear what Pete’s career was. He was successful and his ‘diggings’ showed that he had a high income life style. But, his character was never fully realized.
Pete reaches out to Ricki when Julie’s husband Max leaves her for another woman. Julie is in a tailspin and spiraling downwards. One can’t help but wonder how this woman who did not even attend her daughter’s wedding and has not been in her family’s lives for so long could possibly relate. Conveniently, stepmom, Maureen is away taking care of her father who has ALS. Ricki’s maternal instincts, well, if she could leave three children behind and let them be raised by another woman, well those instincts are highly questionable. These flaws were in the writing.
And, Streep’s performance is so strong, that she makes us forget these inconsistencies. She rises to the occasion in this film and saves it. Her character is so strong. We see her strength as she sings. She takes command of the stage at her long time regular gig in a seedy bar in Tarzana. She traded in a career for her marriage and three children and ended up singing in a bar and working as a checker/cashier at a supermarket. Her career didn’t take off, and she lost her car and is filing for bankruptcy. What sage advice can she possibly give to her suicidal daughter? She is afraid to go home.
Julie is so hostile and overly made up to be a depressed and angry daughter. Mamie Gummer, who is Streep’s real daughter, was over the top. She looked more like a homeless person than a suicidal young woman. She doesn’t refer to Ricki as mom or mother. That relationship does not exist. I loved her line about Ricki looking like a hooker. She did. And, one can see why Ricki could not stay married to Pete. They were too different.
Miraculously, Ricki gets Julie to get her hair and nails done for a day of pampering. Ricki has a practical side and reaches Julie. There is a scene with an arranged dinner with Pete, two sons Josh (Sebastian Stan) and his fiancé, Emily,(Hailey Gates) and her other son, Adam (Nick Westrate), and of course, Julie. Ricki is the outsider. She didn’t even know Josh was engaged. She also didn’t know Adam had come out and is openly gay.
Ricki comes to see what she lost. But, still, she would not have given up her dream. There is a wonderfully enlightening scene in which Ricki has a meltdown in front of the closest thing she has with her “extended family” of her band and her regular audience. Cody wants us to get that men have been able to follow their careers at the expense of their families for eons. But, let a woman try and she is the enemy. That scene was a little heavy handed.
Rick Springfield’s Greg is the tender one. He has the female energy, and like Ricki, he lost his family, his kids. He understands he dilemma and is her rock, her support. And, he can be tender and he can cry. Springfield did a fine acting job in realizing the character of Greg, and his performance provided a good balance.
I have to give a nod to one of our long time actresses, who deliciously played the tiny Oma,, Pete’s mother. That role was played by none other than Charlotte Rae. Without her signature bright red hair, I did not know who played Oma.
I liked the film, despite the writing flaws. It was a courageous undertaking and Streep shines as Ricki. Every nuance, every gesture, her speech, all are consistently fine and she stays in character. I laughed, I cried. This is another Academy Award nomination performance for Meryl Streep.
I am not giving away the end. I walked out on such a high! The music rocks! Despite the flaws in writing and some underused talent, I recommend ‘Ricki and the Flash.’ Check your nearby theater for listings and times.