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RICKI AND THE FLASH
September 5, 2015
Meryl Streep stars in the dramedy Ricki and the Flash as a middle-aged rock’n’roll crowd-pleaser who chased her dreams, leaving behind her children, when she’s suddenly called upon to help her daughter through a crushing divorce.
The film thoughtfully manages the distinction between a comedy and a drama, leaning towards the former but still allowing the family drama to ensue in a way that is honest but hilarious; this is of course down to Streep’s spectacular performance as a mother out of her depth but also as a stage presence when she picks up a microphone (putting her previous singing efforts in Mamma Mia to shame).
The Oscar winning legend is joined by her real-life daughter Mamie Gummer (Cake, Side Effects) as Julie. The chemistry is there in each scene, with Ricki being the caring but not pushy mother for her distraught daughter.
When we are first introduced to Ricki she’s performing in a small bar and working as a cashier in Whole Foods to support herself, but when she is called upon by her ex-husband Pete (Kevin Kline), she packs up her stuff and scrapes together enough for the airport, but not for the cab to Pete’s house “I can’t pay him” she forlornly whispers to her ex when she arrives.
It’s fair to say things aren’t going well for Ricki, especially when she has to deal with meeting all her children in a restaurant for the first time in years, leading to her trying to finally be there for them to which her youngest son laconically comments “Oh look, she’s parenting.”
Whilst she feels unappreciated by her family, her band is always supportive, acting as her surrogate family which she affectionately calls ‘the Flash’. Her strongest relationship is with the lead guitarist Greg (Rick Springfield) her on-and-off boyfriend, but it is obvious there are problems here too. The collection of tenuous relationships are dealt with a shaky hand by Ricki, lending some semblance of reality to the film even if some issues are resolved much too easily if you think too hard about it.
Despite all these grim reminders of opportunities that have swung by, the film doesn’t shy away from this. Often being a genuine drama that manages to be funny on awkwardness rather than relying on a punchline that would affect the tone.
It’s dramatic or funny depending on when it needs to be what, all the while running on its own eclectic, fist-pumping energy. And it’s exactly this energy that keeps the film fun and entertaining and falling in love with Ricki (you may even buy the accompanying soundtrack too), just don’t think too hard about the drama.
Ricki and the Flash is out in UK cinemas from September 4th