The Flick Chicks

Judy Thorburn's Movie Reviews

Ricki and the Flash | Meryl Streep, Kevin Kilne, Rick Springfield, Mamie Gummer, Audra McDonald, Sebastian Stan, Charlotte Rae, Nick Westrate | Review

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2sm The Flick Chicks movie rating for this film is BAD Judy Thorburn

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2lg The Flick Chicks movie rating for this film is BAD

 

Ricki and The Flash

As in the movie versions of the Broadway musicals 'Mama Mia!' and 'Into the Woods', Oscar winning actress Meryl Streep, once again gets to show off her impressive singing voice in Ricki and the Flash, an uneven dramedy about mending family relations.

Streep plays Ricki Rendazzo, aka Linda Brummel, who, decades earlier, abandoned her husband and three kids, and headed out to Los Angeles to pursue her dream of being a rock star. That didn't exactly pan out as she hoped, and is presently struggling to make ends meet, forced to work a day job as a cashier at Total Foods (an obvious take off on Whole Foods) in the San Fernando Valley when not performing night gigs as the front woman, singer/guitarist of her cover band Ricki and The Flash at a local bar.

All that is interrupted when Ricki gets an unexpected call from her ex-husband Pete (Kevin Kline) asking her to return to Indianapolis and help with a family crisis while his present wife is conveniently away.  Ricki's daughter, Julie (Streep's real life, lookalike daughter Mamie Gummer) has fallen into a suicidal depression since her husband left her for another woman. Unkempt, medicated and in therapy, it appears Julie desperately needs her mother, who has long been out of her life, to lend some support, pull her together, and help her move on. Of course, Ricki's arrival shakes things up, with her past as a deadbeat mom coming back to haunt her as bitterness, anger, and confrontations figure into the unfolding scenario.

The visit also allows Ricki to reunite with her sons, Adam (Nick Westrate) who is gay, and her soon to be married son Josh (Sebastian Stan, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”) and his cold and snooty fiancee, Emily (Hailey Gates) whose upcoming wedding Ricki has not been invited.

All of the characters are underdeveloped and basically one note. Mamie Gummer's Julie spends most of the time looking glum when not spewing snarky remarks.  The always wonderful Kevin Kline (who costarred with Streep in Sophie's Choice) is wasted, as is Audra McDonald as Maureen, Pete's current wife/beloved stepmother to his kids that she helped raise to adulthood after Ricki was no longer around. There is also a subplot featuring a stand out performance from legendary real life rocker, Rick Springfield as Greg, Ricki's long suffering boyfriend and fellow band member, who is deeply in love with Ricki and frustrated by her lack of commitment.

Under the direction of Jonathan Demme (“Philadelphia”,“The Silence Of The Lambs”) working from a lackluster script by Diablo Cody (who won an Oscar for “Juno”) whose witty but pretentious dialogue never comes off as genuine, Ricki and The Flash is a mish mash of scenes that meander from one to the next without any emotional impact. That's too bad, since this is filmmaker Demme's first narrative film in six years and it does not live up to what you would expect from the Oscar winning director.

There is no role Streep won't attempt, and as a powerful force in the film industry, you would think she had some input in bringing her character to life in the most believable, convincing way possible. Yet, with her half braided hairdo, multiple ear piercings, back and forearm tattoos, and hard rocker wardrobe, Ricki is a bit too much to swallow, and that doesn't include some stupid things that come out of her mouth as well as clueless behavior.  The way I see it, Streep was more focused on rocking it out as a musician and I have to say she does a decent job playing guitar and performing cover songs from artists such as Tom Petty, U2, Lady Gaga, Edgar Winter, Pink and Bruce Springsteen.

Outside of the enjoyable musical performances, which were recorded live, Ricki and the Flash fails to impress.  Worst of all, the contrived plot leads to a totally ridiculous, happy ending in which we are supposed to toss believability aside and accept Ricki's “gift” to her son, a rock and roll performance at his wedding reception, as her means of redemption and powerful element that allows her to reconcile with her estranged family.

Since the story features a racially mixed married couple (the White Kline and the Black McDonald), a gay son, his Asian boyfriend and an all butch, lesbian staff of servers at the wedding, the only thing missing to be on top of social and political correctness is a transgender character.  I was expecting a cameo appearance by Caitlyn Jenner or Laverne Cox (from TV's Orange is the New Black), who were nowhere in sight.

It comes down to this. Ricki and the Flash is a disappointing, forgettable movie. Like Ricki's dream of rock stardom, the film follows a flawed path and winds up being a failure.

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