Log in

No account? Create an account
entries friends calendar profile Previous Previous Next Next
Ricki and the Flash - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
Ricki and the Flash
Directing: C+
Acting: B+
Writing: C-
Cinematography: B
Editing: B-
Music: C+

The best thing I can say about Ricki and the Flash is it's actually better than Mamma Mia! (2008), in which Meryl Streep also sang -- but not by a wide enough margin to make much difference. Now as then, Streep has gotten a fair amount of press for her interest in the part just so she can sing. She's a trained singer, you know! Nobody cares. The movies in which she sings are the least of her contributions to cinema.

There's supposed to be something a bit pathetic about Ricki, the aging "rocker" Streep plays. She isn't even someone who is trying to relive earlier glory, as the closest she ever got to such glory was a single album that never got her anywhere. Now she and her band, The Flash, have a regular gig at a single tavern in Southern California. This, apparently, is the dream she abandoned her kids in Indianapolis for. Perhaps it makes sense to see how her singing career never quite took off, given that Streeps' voice is serviceable but nothing to write home about. Don't tell that to the gay groupie she apparently has in the bartender at the tavern.

And even with the serviceable voice, there's something genuinely embarrassing about seeing Meryl Streep as Ricki, singing Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance" in a covers band of sixtysomethings. This band doesn't even have any earlier hits to coast on. Ricki is broke and has filed for bankruptcy, which is easy to believe. So why does she not seem to have any problem with this consistent gig, and their patrons seem to love her?

But I'm getting sidetracked! The real story here is Ricki's estrangement with her three children, particularly her one daughter, Julie (Mamie Gummer). The catalyst for Ricki coming back to Indiana to "be there for her daughter" is disappointingly stereotypical: Julie's husband has left her for another woman, and Julie is so fucked up about it she's moping around her father's house without eating or taking a shower. After Julie's dad (Kevin Kline, bland but workable) convinces Ricki to come home while his currently wife is tending to an ailing dad in another city, we meet Julie as a truly crazy person: screaming at the mother who was never there for her, with hair carefully styled to look like it hasn't been washed or combed in a week.

Later there's a dinner scene in which the two sons are present. One is engaged to his girlfriend, news that's months old but none of them told Ricki. The other is gay, a sticking point for Ricki, who here is portrayed as a "conservative" in the most simplified means imaginable -- right down to her justifying her two votes for Bush with "I support our troops!" and a truly tacky red, white and blue American flag tattoo that covers the majority of her upper back. When she later meets her gay son's new boyfriend, she condescendingly tells him he looks like Bruce Lee. Ricki isn't clueless in any realistic way; she's clueless in a way script writer Diabo Cody -- Diablo Cody! -- imagines her, without a shred of nuance.

That's not to say there is no nuance in Ricki and the Flash. Say what you will about Meryl Streep, and even her excessive eagerness to sing in movies, but this woman commits to her roles. If anything makes Ricki and the Flash watchable -- and there's not a whole lot -- it's Streep herself. More when she's talking than when she's singing, but whatever. It's still easy to believe her as a self-absorbed lead singer in a rock band of geezers. Her relationship with the mystifyingly loving guitarist, played by Rick Springfield, maybe a little less so.

I kept wondering about the Bechdel Test while watching this movie. It may pass on a technicality -- Ricki and Julie do talk about public hair, rather than a man, during time spent at a hair salon -- but all the women spend nearly the entire movie talking about men, if they're talking to each other. In other words, only occasionally do they talk about anything interesting. Way too much time is spent on Julie as a spurned lover. Couldn't there have been a better catalyst for getting Ricki to come back home and find redemption with her estranged children?

I will confess: Streep delivers a speech making a toast at her son's wedding near the end that brought me to tears. That's a compliment to Streep, not the movie. Once again, Meryl Streep is by far the best thing in a movie that would otherwise be throwaway garbage without her. The woman has had such a prolific career, in which she is indeed usually the best performer onscreen, I guess they just can't all be great.

Meryl Streep is the only particularly good thing in RICKI AND THE FLASH.

Overall: C+
2 comments or Leave a comment
Heather McCrillis From: Heather McCrillis Date: August 9th, 2015 08:01 pm (UTC) (Link)
Is "aging rock star" turning into a genre'?
tommy50702 From: tommy50702 Date: August 14th, 2015 05:08 am (UTC) (Link)
Meryl Streep has got nothing to prove so she does what she feels like. Good for her!
2 comments or Leave a comment