In Ricki and the Flash, Meryl Streep plays an ageing rocker, long estranged from her children, called by the husband she left years ago, asking her to give support to her jilted and suicidal daughter.
What this film reminded me of most, was a film that came out earlier in the year, Danny Collins. I loved that film, and Ricki and the Flash have a lot of very similar components, although it doesn’t have quite the same impact as the aforementioned does. They’re both about ageing rock stars living with past mistakes (the Rockstar lifestyle mainly), with families that don’t like them initially, and a desire to set things right with their loved ones.
Even though Danny Collins surprised me with a really good heart, Ricki, despite having the same good intentions, slightly just misses the mark. Don’t get me wrong, it was a good fun film, good humour, good characters and in the end it had won me over, but it also didn’t really know what it was trying to say.
Meryl Streep, as good as she is, doesn’t quite convince me as this rock star character, and the film doesn’t try to either. She wears leather trousers, dyes her hair, wears all manor of jewellery, but we really don’t get to the heart of her passion, nor the angst that created this emotional valley between her and her children.
She is, however, utterly game for a role that requires her to just let her hair down, literally and figuratively. She puts her all into her musical performances, just as much as she did in Mamma Mia, and has enough energy left for the emotional stuff. Which there is a lot of, and it mostly sticks.
The relationship with her kids is played nicely, in particular her depressed (and real life) daughter Julie, who gives a fantastic heartfelt performance, as a woman whose husband left her for another woman, and after a failed suicide attempt is coming to terms with her life disintegrating around her. A scene in which she sees her ex with his new girlfriend, is emotionally heavy, and Mamie Gummers performance is heaving with anguish.
Elsewhere, the likes of Kevin Kline and Sebastian Stan, do well as father and son, but the real heart lies with the mother and daughter pairing, when, even though it can often get left behind for a story about Ricki’s struggling boyfriend issues, comes to a satisfying and moving conclusion.
I had problems with the amount of full song performances from Ricki and the flash, particularly when it was songs I didn’t know, but they were all well staged, if slightly stilted. As well as this issue, there is also a narrative problem, after Ricki heads back to her band in LA, things slow down and don’t do much for a while, which is a bit annoying. However the film wades through these slow scenes and comes out the other side in time for an enjoyable and warm finale, and of course a great musical performance and a wedding dance.
In the end, the performances are great, I liked Mamie Gummer a lot, the music is toe tapping, the script, from Juno and Young Adult scribe Diablo Cody, does its duty and the whole film canters along, occasionally fun, occasionally sad, but wholeheartedly enjoyable in the sort of way when there’s nothing really to complain about.
If you like Streep, liked Mamma Mia and you like this sort of music, then go for it.
Rating: B- 6/10
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