FILM REVIEW: Ricki and the Flash

Ricki and the Flash (Jonathan Demme, 2015)

As we all know, Meryl Streep could play Batman if she wanted to, so her presence in Ricki and the Flash automatically makes it a watchable film. But with anybody else, it most likely would have been a stinker.

It's that OLD time rock 'n' roll
It’s that OLD time rock ‘n’ roll

Queen Meryl plays Ricki: cashier by day, rocker in a quiet L.A bar by night. Her boyfriend, Greg (Rick Springfield) is also in the band, and doesn’t do much for the whole film other than pine after Meryl (because, duh) and play guitar like a champ. Having abandoned her family several years earlier, Ricki is summoned back home by her ex-husband, Pete (Kevin Kline) when her daughter, Julie (Mamie Gummer a.k.a. mini Meryl) is going through a crisis.

MAKEOVER TIME!
MAKEOVER TIME!

When we meet Julie, she looks like a meth addict, but it turns out she just hasn’t been washing her hair. Queen Meryl takes mini Meryl out for a makeover and VOILA! That’s that storyline pretty much taken care of, because we all know a makeover is the best cure for a suicide attempt. Then there’s some further weak plotting regarding how everyone hates Meryl (HAHAHA you’ve just lost everyone) and then she sings so they love her again (nice save but still a major fail when it comes to screenplay).

Like mother, like daughter
Like mother, like daughter

I expected more from screenwriter Diablo Cody, who wrote the whip-smart Juno, as well as Young Adult and several episodes of United States of Tara. But it seems like she was too awe-struck by the notion of Meryl that she phoned this script in.  Nothing much happens on the way to the conclusion, and then the ending is one big “JUST SING A SONG AND EVERYONE LIVES HAPPILY EVER AFTER” cop-out. Even below par Broadway musicals have better endings than this. What’s especially weird is that Ricki is supposedly based on Cody’s real life mother-in-law, which would mean the role of Ricki’s son’s fiancé (Hailey Gates) is meant to be Cody. And she’s the worst written character of the bunch. In the final scenes I almost had an aneurysm trying to figure out what the hell her deal was – ARE YOU A BRIDEZILLA OR NOT? MAKE UP YOUR MIND. The direction by Jonathan Demme in this scene is appalling. And this is the guy who directed The Silence of the Lambs.

The Queen & Kev
The Queen & Kev

That’s not to say this film isn’t fun in parts. Watching Meryl strut around in leather and pretend to be poor is entertaining in itself, and the songs aren’t half-bad. Audra McDonald, QUEEN of Broadway turns up as Kevin Kline’s new perfect wife, and they couldn’t have done a better casting job there because AUDRA IS EVERYTHING. The real travesty is that she doesn’t get to sing. There’s also a gloriously expensive house to marvel at (oh that bench space), as well as Meryl’s rocker hair. Unfortunately, all this isn’t enough to make up for a lacklustre screenplay. If Meryl gets a Golden Globe nomination for this it just goes to prove that she can be in ANYTHING and still reap rewards.

3 stars (because Meryl)

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