Ricki and the Flash (2015) Directed by Jonathan Demme. With Meryl Streep, Rick Springfield, Kevin Kline and Mamie Gummer.
Jonathan Demme directs Meryl Streep and Kevin Kline to a script written by Diablo Cody…what’s not to like!? It’s reported that Cody penned the screenplay to be loosely based on her own stepmother who fronted a New Jersey bar band for many years. The film shares DNA with Dan Fogelman’s Danny Collins, in which Al Pacino played an ageing rock star attempting to build bridges to his broken past. In a way, Ricki and the Flash is the exact same experience, albeit with a few extra grains of sugar on the spoon.
The rock n’ roll scene is littered with remnants of broken dreams. Anyone able to string together three guitar chords and belt out a Beatles tune (in tune) is likely to have deluded themselves by swallowing gallons of grandeur at some stage in their lives. Getting good on an instrument like the guitar buys you a lot of social acceptance, and it’s not long before that morphs into your personality to make the guitar neck feel like an extra arm. This, in some way, describes Ricki’s backstory. She’s a woman who has at some point believed she’d share a stage with the likes Springsteen and Petty. But in chasing that dream, her family got left behind.
At first sight, it’s surprising to meet Streep decked out like an 1980’s throwback, complete with leggings, long boots and ratty braids, while chugging out Tom Petty’s American Girl in a cobbled together, backstreet bar band. After only a few chords, it’s apparent that Streep is either the real deal, or, as is usually the case, has the natural ability to convince us she is the real deal. It’s a long stretch from Margaret Thatcher, but then, Streep is the ultimate chameleon, an actress able to inhabit any role and show us something new.
While it might not immediately jump out as anything particularly remarkable, there are many interesting facets to the tale, which are given life by Streep’s presence. There are fine supporting performances here too, not least Mamie Gummer as Ricki’s estranged daughter (she’s Streep’s real-life daughter too), which lends the film a small slice of authenticity. Praise must also go to Rick Springfield (remember the song Jessie’s Girl?), who plays lead guitar and boyfriend to Ricki. Springfield not only rocks, he is a rock to Ricki, and we can easily surmise, to Meryl Streep too, given his vast experience on the rock circuit.
While Ricki and the Flash won’t exactly rock your world, it offers enough to keep your toe tapping along to the beat. Although it regularly succumbs to cliché, sometimes that’s exactly what we’re in the mood for. 3.5/5