Academy Award winner Meryl Streep isn’t a stranger to donning braided hair while singing ’70s pop rock songs. Thankfully this go around, Ricki and the Flash, proved to be far more enjoyable than Streep’s former musical movie, 2008’s Mamma Mia!. While the film certainly had its flaws, Ricki is a solid dramedy with a great cast and an excellent soundtrack.
Directed by Jonathan Demme (Silence of the Lambs, Philadelphia), Ricki and the Flash recounts the story of Linda Brummel, aka Ricki Rendazzo, and her struggle to rekindle her relationship with her daughter, Julie (Mamie Gummer), her two sons and the husband she abandoned years prior. It is revealed that Ricki abandoned her suburban lifestyle to pursue her dream of becoming a rock star. Fast-forward ten years or so, and Ricki is a struggling musician playing in an LA-based cover band while working as a cashier at a grocery store. While Ricki’s life is far from stable, things become even more turbulent when Ricki receives a phone call from her ex-husband, Pete (Kevn Kline), following Julie’s attempted suicide. Ricki hops on a plane and heads to Indianapolis to comfort her emotionally distraught daughter. Upon arrival, Ricki has several awkward run-ins with Pete and his new wife, Maureen (Audra McDonald), and a painfully awkward dinner with her entire family, all while Julie struggles to compose herself.
In typical Diablo Cody (Juno, Young Adult) fashion, the film has its comedic moments, but also several poignant moments between Ricki and the supporting characters. The only flaw Ricki has is the lack of detail and development. The film has the potential to serve as a commentary on the traditional family structure and the importance of forgiveness, but falls short due to poor story development, or shall I say lack thereof.
The cast is superb, fortunately. Broadway veteran and Tony award winner, Audra McDonald, portrays Pete’s controlling yet overly polite wife, Maureen. For theatre and film fans, having Streep and McDonald on the same screen at the same time is reason enough to see this film! Sebastian Stan (Captain America, Gossip Girl) stars as Ricki’s son, Joshua and Nick Westrate (Turn: Washington’s Spies) portrays Ricki’s loud-mouthed, gay son, Adam. Both who beautifully off of Streep. Streep’s biological daughter, Mamie Gummer, who portrays Julie. Gummer proves that she can hold her own while performing alongside her Academy Award winning mother. In fact, the most memorable moments in the film were between Gummer and Streep, as the performances felt so genuine and natural. Kevin Kline (A Fish Called Wanda) also shines in his portrayal of Ricki’s ex-husband, Pete. And of course, there’s Meryl. With her half-braided hair, tight leather pants and wrist-tattoo, Meryl makes for the ultimate washed-up rock singer. While I doubt Ricki will earn Streep an Oscar nom, Streep still gives a stellar performance as a character who is questioning their dreams and lifestyle choice. ’80s rocker, Rick Springfield, joins Meryl on screen as Greg, Ricki’s band mate and boyfriend. It doesn’t get much more satisfying than having Rick Springfield and Meryl Streep singing a passionate cover of The Doobie Brothers’ “Give Me the Beat Boys.”
Bottom line: While lack of character and story development may be two prevalent flaws in Ricki, the film is still a piece of solid entertainment that is sure to please fans of family dramedies, rock music and of course Meryl.
Ricki and the Flash Rating: 6 out of 10
Mallory Delchamp is a writer, model, and performer living in Manhattan. You can routinely read her film and music reviews here on Pop-Break and you can also check out her work on zumic.comand nytheatreguide.com. A social media and pop culture enthusiast, Mallory also enjoys musical theatre, superhero films, and drinking coffee. You can visit Mallory at her website, www.mallorydelchamp.com