If Ricki and the Flash
were merely a vehicle—even a contrivance—for the musical and dramatic gifts of Meryl
Streep, that would be enough to satisfy me. I’m sure some people will dismiss
it in those terms, but I found it enjoyable, an agreeable piece of
entertainment that allows us to bask in the glow of a singular talent. The
movie may not be great, or even memorable, but I had a good time watching it…and
that is no small compliment.
The leading role created by screenwriter Diablo Cody fits
Streep like a glove, and she is clearly comfortable in the hands of director by
Jonathan Demme. Streep plays an ’80s-style rock-and-roller who holds court at a
neighborhood bar in the San Fernando Valley playing cover versions of familiar
hits with her longtime band, while earning a living bagging groceries during
the day. (Perhaps needless to add, Streep does her own singing and playing, on
a vintage Stratocaster.) A sudden phone call from her ex-husband (Kevin Kline)
summons her home to Indiana, where her grown daughter (played by Streep’s
real-life offspring Mamie Gummer) has become despondent since her husband left her.
Streep walked out on her family many years ago and has been a distant, mostly
absent figure in their lives ever since. Straight-arrow Kline married a solid
woman (Audra McDonald) who has raised the children in prosperous surroundings.
With her aging-rocker look and sensibilities, Streep is a
fish out of water in this neatly-groomed suburban setting, but she does her
best to offer her sullen daughter some motherly help. Sparks inevitably fly as
we meet her sons and their adoptive mom comes home from a trip out of town. Back
in California, Streep has to come to terms with her own domestic situation,
strongly attached to her bandmate Rick Springfield but reluctant to admit that
she loves him enough to make a commitment.
Ricki and the Flash
never cuts terribly deep, but it’s a likable film with an appealing cast. I was
glad to see the wonderful Charlotte Rae in an all-too-brief appearance, and wish
Kline had more to do, but the movie is all about Meryl, her daughter, and her
As icing on the cake, the “greatest hits” music is fun to
listen to. It’s hard not to smile as you listen to this tight-knit band perform
“Keep Playin’ that Rock ‘n’ Roll,” “Drift Away,” “Wooly Bully,” “My Love Will
Not Let You Down,” and other favorites as well as one original, “Cold One.”
In a summer packed with high-concept blockbusters, surely
there is room for a pleasant, undemanding picture like this—with one of the
greatest actresses on the planet letting her hair down and having a good time.