Ricki and the Flash (2015)
dir. Jonathan Demme
written by: Diablo Cody
starring: Meryl Streep, Mamie Gummer, Kevin Kline, Rick Springfield, Audra McDonald
2 out of 4 stars
Meryl Streep can do anything. She sings; she sorta dances (she’s never given the opportunity to really bust a move); she acts and mimics and characterizes. No matter the role, Streep is committed from the most meak (Hope Springs) to the most brazen, our current topic Ricki and the Flash. In likely her most gruff role, Meryl plays Ricki, a Midwestern absent mother who followed her dream to be a musician in Los Angeles. Years since she’s seen her family, her ex husband (Kevin Kline) calls her home to be with her recently dumped daughter (real life Streep offspring Mamie Gummer). Confronted with kids who despise her and a history just way too awkward for words, Ricki deals with where her life has lead her.
Where her life led her was the similar locations as many of Goddess Streep’s typical off year, middle aged actress roles. While prepping for Florence Foster Jenkins, the upcoming Stephen Frears comedy, Streep earns a paycheck attempting to elevate movies below her talent. More gravel voiced than Silkwood and less maternal than Marvin’s Room, Ricki is a burned out mess of a woman with a measured performance from the actress. Given little but Diablo Cody’s less excessive and less intriguing banter, Meryl has little content with which to work.
Jonathan Demme, delving into family drama again, provides lackluster direction, so disappointing after Rachel Getting Married, the 2008 dark comedy about a rehabilitated Anne Hathaway returning home for her sister’s wedding. He gave us the best of Hathaway. It seems here Meryl gave us the best of Meryl, and Demme gave us nothing. Kevin Kline holds a one note performance, and Mamie Gummer proves subtlety is not hereditary.
A saving grace for the movie is Audra McDonald, playing Kline’s second wife. With 6 Tony’s to her name, the woman clearly knows how to act. These titans of stage and screen face off in one of Audra’s three film’s best scenes, and Audra plays measured and motherly to this biological mother of three. Over a decade of dealing with her baggage has left a quiet rage in this woman that she has to let out through a properly measured valve. A movie surrounding this woman could have so much potential, or at least a rip roaring rock battle between the opposing mothers, but sadly she’s in but a fraction of the last third of the movie.
Save a few fun musical numbers from Meryl and The Flash’s guitarist, played by Rick Springfield, Ricki and the Flash is a miss. “Cold One” by Jenny Lewis and Jonathan Rice can possibly grab some traction as a catchy tune from notable artists, but overall this film is entirely missable. Take the soundtrack as Meryl’s karaoke mixtape, and pray that Demme and Cody have gone their separate ways. Meryl, I look forward to seeing you back in form later this year.