Well today I was planning on seeing Fantastic 4 but then I heard a bunch of people I respect say it is the worst superhero movie since Batman and Robin and I thought ‘surely there is something else I could see…’ and fortunately there was. I decided to go to Ricki and the Flash starring Meryl Streep and written by the great Diablo Cody. In many ways this movie is kind of like the Age of Adeline. It’s no masterpiece but a solid entertaining film.
Streep stars as Ricki who left her family when her 3 children were little to pursue her dream of being a rock star. Even now as a more mature woman she dutifully plays at a nearly empty club every weekend and works at Whole Foods during the day. This might seem like a sad lot but she is happy with the life she has chosen. Rick Springfield plays her bassist in the band and quasi-boyfriend and he is very good in the part (as in Age of Adeline the acting across the board elevates this material).
Then out of the blue Ricki gets a call from her ex-husband played by Kevin Kline in Indianapolis (I like how every movie uses my poor Indianapolis as the go-to for boring Middle America). Her daughter Julie, played by Streep’s real-life daughter Mamie Gummer, has been dumped by her husband and is in a deep state of depression. Kline is at his wits end and calling his ex out of desperation because she has been so inactive in most of the children’s lives.
She agrees to come and Streep does such a good job showing the insecurity of a woman who both has regrets and has no regrets. She’s confident but completely insecure at the same time. It’s very good. Because of the abandonment her children hate her and think she is a big joke.
I particularly liked a scene where they are at dinner and the way they are interacting reminded me of tense family dinners I’ve been at from time to time.
This is where Diablo Cody shines in writing complex characters that you both despise and root for at the same time. Ricki wasn’t a good mother because she wasn’t there for her kids; however, she was pursuing her dream which does make her sympathetic. Ricki is also not just the aging rocker but she is also a Republican with a brother who died in Vietnam. There are layers to her just like actual human beings.
There’s a strong element of work and dreams which is a topic I always respond too. How much is too great a sacrifice to be happy in your work? What is it worth to go for your dreams? Should Ricki have been miserable and stayed with her family or tried (and failed) to be a rock star? It’s an interesting question to ponder. The movie does also make the good point that if Ricky was a man our society would be far less quick to put the ‘bad father’ label on him for doing the same things.
Streep learned how to play the guitar for the movie in a matter of weeks and does all her own instrumentals and singing, which is pretty remarkable. We of course know from many other films (Mama Mia, Into the Woods, Prairie Home Companion etc) she can sing but she proves it once again here.
There are some problems with the film which take it down from being a favorite. The singing segments, while good, are all too long. Especially being covers (except for 1 song) we don’t need to hear the entire song. A verse or chorus is plenty to get the message. If they were going to do full songs I wish it had been original songs because wouldn’t someone who sacrificed so much for music do more than just covers? At least at the end with her family you’d think so.
The ending is also pretty sappy but I didn’t mind it because every family has sappy moments. Thank goodness we do because all the drama wouldn’t be worth it! But the ending does drag on a little too long as well (and it’s not that long of a movie). They definitely put a bow on everything and make all the problems go away. It is very sitcomy in that way.
All that said, the writing is good with complex characters. The acting is across the board good. The music is good if a little bit too long. Overall, I enjoyed watching Ricki and the Flash and being a part of this family for 100 minutes. I think if you go you will enjoy it and be glad you went.
After all, not every movie has to be a masterpiece to be worth a hardy recommendation.
As far as content there is some profanity and vulgar language, characters smoke pot and unmarried characters have sex mostly off screen. I’d say it is fine for teens and up.
Overall Grade- C+
Content Grade- B-
I’m thinking I made the right choice over Fantastic 4! 🙂
My youtube review