Friday, August 7, 2015


Ricki and the Flash

Ricki and the Flash official site Is there any role that the three-time Academy Award-winner Meryl Streep cannot play? Probably not, unless it's a half-baked character that even the director has a hard time handling. Even though she had to learn how to play a rhythm guitar in order to play live in "Ricki and the Flash" (USA 2015 | 102 min.), Meryl Streep is as convincing as any rock-star and sings beautifully. However, it's the badly-written character that leaves her screen appearance awkward and perplexing. What a pity.

Decorated with numerous jewelries on her fingers and neck, inked with an American flag on her back, and braided her hair stylishly, Ricki (Meryl Streep) is a free-spirite struggling rock musician. She works as a cashier during the day to make ends meet; at night, she sings at a local bar with her rock band called "The Flash," with Greg (Rick Springfield) on lead guitar, Buster (Rick Rosas who died shortly after the filming) on bass, Billy (Bernie Worrell) on keyboard, and Joe (Joe Vitale) on drum. Although there are fewer than a dozen of old folks on any given night, Ricki and the Flash can always count on the cheer from the scene-stealing enthusiastic bartender Daniel (Ben Platt).

Ricki is passionate about being a rock star and she has no regret for leaving her ex-husband Pete (Kevin Kline) and their three children behind in Indianapolis and moving to Tarzana, CA in the '60s. Despite being broke, she seems content and alive whenever she plays with the Flash, but she has no connection with her abandoned family back in Indiana.

Out of the blue, Pete calls Ricki and tells her that their daughter Julie (Mamie Gummer, the real life daughter of Meryl Streep) is having a nervous breakdown because Julie's husband is leaving her for another woman. Never mind that Ricki didn't bother to attend Julie's wedding, she flies back to Indianapolis at Pete's home to attend to Julie's well-being. Really?

During her visit, for the first time, Ricki meets Pete's new wife Maureen (Audra McDonald) who raised Ricki's children into their adulthood. Ricki also reunites with her resentful gay son Adam (Nick Westrate) and her elder son Josh (Sebastian Stan) who is about to marry an environmentalist Emily (Hailey Gates). Josh and Emily have no intention to invite Ricki to their wedding. But please take a wild guess if Ricki is going to attend the wedding after all.

Ricki and the Flash Official Site

The film is directed by Academy Award-winning veteran director Jonathan Demme. However, he seems confused at how to turn a sloppy script, written by Diablo Cody, into a meaningful story. Is this a film about the reconciliation of a broken family? Or is it about the pursuit of a musician's dream? Or is it about forgiveness and love? Or is it about the reflection on a personal choice? Actually, the film is about none of the above. Yet, the film unsuccessfully tries to be all of them. After Diablo Cody won an Oscar for writing the terrific "Juno" (2007), she has not written any good script ever since. Now she flunks once again.

Whenever in Pete's mansion as a failed mother, Meryl Streep is visibly acting to be Ricki and her body language and voice become awkward, even though she is still less painful to watch than Kevin Kline's performance. That is perhaps because no one seems to know what Ricki's character is supposed to think or do. But whenever Meryl Streep gets on stage with a guitar as a musician, she soars magnificently and shows that she is capable of anything if her role is well-defined.

It would have been more enjoyable if we can simply enjoy the musical performance by Meryl Streep. Instead, we have to suffer with her together to endure dreadful family drama that no one is going to believe. No wonder Ricki ran away years ago. I don't blame her.

"Ricki and the Flash," a TriStar Pictures release, opens on Friday, August 7, 2015.

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