<Review by: Sailesh Ghelani>
Directed by Jonathan Demme. Starring Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline, Mamie Gummer, Rick Springfield
You go for a Meryl Streep film and you expect something. Even though I think her acting talents have been a tad over exaggerated I didn’t expect her to be in a film with so little to offer.
Meryl plays a rock star in Ricki and the Flash. In fact, she is the titular Ricki and fronts a band that plays at The Salt Well diner and bar that is inhabited by people mostly her age who come there everyday to drink and dance to her cover versions of songs by Lady Gaga and Pink. During the day she works at a supermarket checkout counter where everyone is supposed to smile a lot and be nice. She isn’t always good at that. Then one day her ex husband Pete (Kevin Kline) calls up about her daughter Julie (Mammie Gummer, who is Streep’s real life daughter; what a funny name!). Julie’s husband has abandoned her for another woman and so now the life she left behind to follow her ‘dream’ needs her back.
And she goes back to find her daughter hates her –well in their first scene together at least – but then very quickly goes out for haircuts with the parent who left her to become a washed up rocker chick. Ricki then has dinner with Julie, Pete and her two sons Adam and Josh which turns into one of those dysfunctional family get-togethers creating a scene in a restaurant to shocking and funny effect.
But wait; haven’t we seen stuff like this before? We have, and done a lot better and more interestingly. Poor Kevin Kline is reduced to being a caricature, still having feelings for Ricki but devoted to his new wife. Julie is the standard fare bitchy, neurotic girl who ultimately is a softie at heart. Ricki is upset that double standards allow for a father to leave his family and become a star but don’t let mothers do the same. And she tells her audience that before breaking out in to a song.
Ah the songs! Let me tell you that Meryl Streep, professional that she is, sang and played the guitar herself in the film. Unfortunately, the singing isn’t so great and neither is the sound design. At points I had to cover my ears since they were crackling with the loud and jarringly bad music. It wasn’t inspirational nor was it fun.
The only fun comes with some of the dialogue (written by Diablo Cody of Juno fame). Baby boomers will like some of the nostalgia and identify with the moments when Streep’s Ricki can’t understand how to use the mobile phone and Kevin Kline despairs about how the current generation of kids are all screwed up. But apart from a clever line here or there, Ricki and the Flash is mediocre material that looks dated and weary.