A new Meryl Streep movie is always cause for excitement. If she has chosen a script, then it’s not likely to be bad. However, Ricki and the Flash, although it has its moments, is a bit of a disappointment.
Washed up rock-star, Ricki, is called back into her neglected family when daughter Julie (played by Streep’s real-life daughter, Mamie Gummer) becomes suicidal after her marriage breakdown.
The scene is set for an exploration of the nature of motherhood, the judgment of working women and the state of contemporary relationships. We skim the surface of all of these issues, but never go too deep.
Director Jonathon Demme seems unsure whether he is making a family comedy or a kitchen-sink drama. There are gaps in the film that Demme fills with enjoyable, but ultimately pointless, clips of Ricki performing. Playing Ricki’s guitarist and boyfriend, Greg, is rock royalty Rick Springfield, who shows a surprising breadth as an actor.
Diablo Cody’s script is sharp and tight, but just seems to have gaps. The relationship between Ricki and Julie is explored, whereas her two sons seem to just be padding. They could have been cut out without really affecting the storyline at all. Ex-husband, Pete, played by Kevin Kline, is not given enough space to develop.
Streep does an, as always, remarkable job, making Ricki a rounded character, who we don’t always like, but do always sympathize with. However, the stand-out performance is by Mamie Gummer. Julie is a complex, empathetic and totally believable character.
Despite reservations, this film is highly enjoyable. Although not deep, it does touch on important and unpopular issues, such as the way an absent mother is regarded as a monster, whereas an absent father is given sympathy and understanding. It is full of grown-up humour, good music and gently beautiful scenes, such as when Ricki, Pete and Julie, get stoned together.
Although not reaching the heights I was hoping for, this is a film that is difficult not to like.
Reviewed by Tracey Korsten
Rating out of 5: 3