Merly Streep is one of those rare actresses who pretty much never makes a bad movie. She has a real brain for picking interesting, challenging and brilliant roles. It has paid off well for her, she has been nominated for more Oscars than any actor ever male or female, she has many smashes at the box office and her name alone is enough to draw a certain group of the audience to see the film no matter what the subject matter is. With all that said I can’t blame Streep for talking a role in Ricki and the Flash, which gives her a chance to really let loose playing a hippie like rocker, while allowing her to show off her impressive singing voice.
However what is truly shocking is how much I disliked Streep’s performance in this film.
Directed by acclaimed director Jonathan Demme (Silence of the Lambs), which was likely enough in itself for Streep to sign on, Ricki and the Flash feels like it is two movies about the same character, that have crashed together and taken the highlights of each. I have no doubt that if given a bit longer a running time, there was a good to great movie in there, but what we get is a complete mess and is a bit to perfectly wrapped up for my taste.
Streep plays Ricki Rendazzo, a up there in age rocker chick, who plays with her group The Flash at a local bar, were she tries to balance the older bar flies who like the classic hits and the young hip crowd who wants something a bit more modern. Ricki reminds me of one of those people you see on Bar Rescue, who just don’t know when their time has passed and not aware of when to give it up.
Ricki receives a call from her ex-husband Pete (Kevin Kline) who informs her that their daughter Julie (Mamie Gummer) has been dumped by her husband and is a complete wreck. Ricki decides to fly down and reconnect with her daughter and help her through this tough time. Of course this sets up conflicts between her and Pete who clearly misses her wild ways, her two sons Josh (Sebastian Stan) and Adam (Nick Westrate) who of course resent her for running away to be a rock star and not a mom and Pete’s new wife Maureen (Audra McDonald) who picked up all the pieces that Ricki left behind.
There is another portion of the movie that revolves around Ricki and her relationship with her band mate Greg (Pop star Rick Springfield) and if they are or aren’t actually a couple. This who plot line was completely unnecessary to the film and takes away from what we all care about, Ricki and the relationship with her family.
As I mentioned above Streep is just not very good in this movie. I am not sure it is truly her fault though, for she does her best to make Ricki an interesting character and believe it or not Streep can sing well, just the screenplay by Diablo Cody gives her nothing to really sink her teeth into. The screenplay is a complete mess and anything great that Streep could have brought to this film is lost in the shuffle.
However Streep’s daughter Mamie Gummer is fantastic in the is and completely steals the show from her mother. Kevin Kline does a solid job as well as a man who is clearly happy with his life but misses what could have been in the past.
There are definite flashes of brilliance here and there, like a very funny family diner scene, but all is lost in the final 30 mins of the film, which takes place at a wedding and is god awful and clinche filled. The entire thing feels like some much was cut out of it, because we get pointless facial reactions that lead nowhere.
Ricki and the Flash has all the right tools to be a funny grown up comedy, great actress, great director, well known screen writer, but everything seems to be working against it self here and the movie is a cluster. Don’t get me wrong the movie is not awful and some older folks may enjoy this still, but I was left wondering what was left on the cutting room floor and what could have been.