"Ricki and the Flash" - Flash of brilliance or flash in the pan?
PORTLAND, Ore. - She's a three time OSCAR winner, but in her new movie, "Ricki and the Flash," Meryl Streep does more than act. She plays guitar and sings in a band!
Rick Springfield and three other rock legends (Rick Rosas, Joe Vitale and Bernie Worrell) make up "The Flash," Streep's backing band. She plays "Ricki," a woman who is dedicated to rock, who left some very important people (her family) behind a long time ago in pursuit of her dreams.
When her son-in-law walks out on her daughter, she returns home to try and heal some old and new wounds. Despite the hostility from her daughter and other family members, she is able to reconnect. Her daughter "Julie" is played by Streep's real life daughter, Mamie Gummer. Gummer will likely get some awards, or at least nominations, for her sharp performance. She does certainly get all the best lines and steals the spotlight a bit from her famous mother.
Those lines were written by another OSCAR winner, Diablo Cody (Juno). They are snappy and clever, but the story falls a little flat in the end. Although, this is more of a slice of life than a life story. Watch for Cody's cameo as an enthusiastic dancing fan at one of The Flash's gigs. And if you remember "The Facts of Life" from TV, watch for another cameo from 89-year-old Charlotte Rae as "Oma." She's frail, but she's still got it!
The third OSCAR winner to take part in the film is the director, Jonathan Demme (The Silence of the Lambs). He has a pretty easy time calling the shots with this bunch because of their individual talents. Speaking of which another notable talent on screen here is Kevin Kline (another OSCAR winner) who plays Ricki's ex-husband, "Pete." Kline is relaxed around Streep, and the fact that they worked together years ago on "Sophie's Choice" may show a little bit in their familiarity with one another.
Rick Springfield was born to play the role of "Greg." He loves "Ricki," and loves playing guitar. In fact you may not have known, or even forgotten that he really is a fantastic guitarist. He and the rest of the band do get to show off quite a bit in the film. There's actually more music than you might expect in the movie. I appreciated the music more knowing that NONE of the musicians (including Streep) were lip-syncing or faking it. EVERYONE, including Streep, played their instruments live to be recorded on film. It's obvious there was a lot of work and rehearsal that went into the band portions of the movie. They truly look and sound like they've been playing together for years.
Even with a PG-13 rating, I wouldn't really take the kids to "Ricki and the Flash." There are still some bad words, and the subject matter (divorce, break down, drugs, etc.) would probably be boring or a little much for them. Adults will enjoy the film. Overall the story is good, and there are laughs. It's definitely worth your money whether you see an evening show, or head to a matinee.
Mary Loos has been reviewing movies for over 20 years in print, radio and on TV. She is a 16 year member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association, the largest critics group in North America.