Director: Jonathan Demme.
Cast: Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline, Mamie Gummer, Rick Springfield, Audra McDonald, Sebastian Stan.
|"Push the little daisies and make them come up!"|
Occasionally she stars in average films (perhaps increasingly so), but never is she anything less than great, even when everything around her is exceedingly average.
Such is the case in this strangely lifeless comedy-drama, which lacks the laughs to be a comedy and the bite it would need to be a strong drama.
Luckily Streep, perhaps the greatest actor who has ever lived, is present to elevate things, bringing all her charisma to bear as Ricki Rendazzo – a woman her walked out on her life as a married mother-of-three named Linda Brummel to follow her rock ‘n’ roll dreams.
A couple of decades on from her divorce, Ricki is doing it tough, playing in the house band of a Californian bar with her boyfriend Greg (Rick “Jessie’s Girl” Springfield) by night and working as a check-out chick by day.
A phone call from her ex-husband (Kline) drags her back into her past, forcing her to reconnect with her recently dumped daughter (played by Streep’s real life daughter Mamie Gummer), her estranged sons, and the damage done by her departure all those years ago.
Much has been made of Streep’s rock chick persona and the fact that she (in true Streep fashion) is really singing and really playing guitar. While her guitarwork looks shaky at times, she nails her vocals, using them as just one of facets of another excellent performance that is typically multi-facted. Ricki is intriguingly flawed – she’s comfortable with who she is, but she's increasingly uncomfortable with how she got there, and it makes for a compelling character, especially in Streep’s guitar-playing hands.
Her chemistry with Kline is excellent, but almost everyone else – particularly Gummer and Springfield – is struggling to keep up with her talents.
The script, written by Oscar-winner Diablo Cody (Juno, Young Adult) is oddly tame. Its set-up, characters and cast suggest this should have been funnier or tougher or both, but instead it is neither.
None of this is helped by Demme, whose perplexing directorial choices (too many awkward slow zooms) and his inability to nail the “dramedy” tone leave the film blowing in the wind with no direction home.
So why watch this? For Streep, of course. The extended musical interludes, which are at first slightly tiresome, end up being the most memorable bit. The perfect example is the unsurprising ending, which is cornier than a popcorn festival in a cornfield but sucks you in thanks to the fact Streep and her band look like they’re really giving it their all and having the time of their lives.
As a result, for all it flaws, Ricki & The Flash becomes watchable and almost enjoyable purely on the back of Streep and her Suzie Q attitude and Joan Jett moves.