A film like Ricki And The Flash makes you realise just how good Meryl Streep is, as without her this film is likely to have gotten far worse reviews than it did. She is obviously having a great time in the lead role of an aging rockers whose dreams of stardom never really came to anything, and now finds herself somewhat estranged from her kids.
Ricki (whose real name is Linda) gets a call from her ex-husband, Pete (Kevin Kline), to tell her their daughter, Julie (Mamie Gummer), is severely depressed after her hubby ran off with another woman. Ricki jumps on a plane from California to Iowa and discovers things are worse than she thought, as Julie has attempted suicide. However, Julie seems to respond to having her mother around, even if her two sons are less impressed about having the mother who virtually abandoned them around.
Slowly Ricki comes to realise the resentment that’s in the way of her relationship with her family, and what chasing her rock dreams have cost her, although she cannot completely give up its powerful allure, despite her fraught connection with her kids and the fact she’s on the edge of fantasy.
Ricki And The Flash is the sort of movie that doesn’t quite hit its mark. The main issue is that the tone is very light, but it’s actually dealing with some pretty dark and deep family issues. However, it doesn’t have the time or energy to properly address them and so comes across as a bit disingenuous. It also means that when it gets around to trying to offer resolution and warm the audience’s hearts, it never feels like it’s earned what it wants to do. As a result it’s a series of scenes that would work in other movies, but not really in this one.
For example, Ricki has never really accepted that one of her sons his gay – not least because they rarely talk – but the movie attempts to bring this up and resolve it in just two scenes, and does it in a way that seems to think decades of problems can be sorted by a quick chat.
Luckily though it has Meryl, who I’d imagine took the role for the chance to rock out and also to work alongside her daughter, Mamie Gummer, for the first time on screen. Streep gives it her all and ensures that even at its most implausible and overly simplistic, she keeps the whole thing very watchable. Even her great powers can’t completely overcome the script’s weaknesses, even if the movie does have a few nice moments.
Overall Verdict: As always, Streep is great, but the issues its dealing with are too complex for a movie that wants to be so light and fluffy about them.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac