Ricki and the Flash

Meryl Streep and Rick Springfield are memorable, but not much else is.
Movie Review #1,003


TriStar Pictures
Comedy, Drama, Music
1 hour, 41 minutes
Rated PG-13 (thematic material, brief drug content, sexuality and language)
Released August 7, 2015
Directed by Jonathan Demme
Writer: Diablo Cody
Starring Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline, Mamie Gummer, and Rick Springfield

Screenwriter Diablo Cody is at her absolute best when she’s telling a coming-of-age story, and generally one that doesn’t follow the traditional adolescent subject. Remember “Young Adult” (2011)? That’s what I mean. Her script for “Ricki and the Flash” plays along the same lines. Granted, it’s not nearly as biting, as honest, or as reaistic as that last movie, but it’s still pretty decent.

Ricki Randazzo (Meryl Streep) is a conservative woman living in California. She plays guitar and sings lead vocals on a regular basis for her band, the Flash, at a local bar. This is what she’s always dreamed of doing, even if it requires working a second job as a cashier to make ends meet. She lives life happily and freely this way, not even concerned by the fact that she abandoned her family in order to chase her dream.

None of her kids are willing to forgive her. However, her ex-husband wants to give her a second chance to make things right. He asks that she come visit in Indianapolis to help out her daughter, who is going through a divorce and has recently attempted suicide. Ricki flies out to Indianapolis, and is treated like a roach upon her arrival. Her kids want nothing to do with her, as has been the case for most of their lives. She isn’t ready to take the blame for this, though, and to face the fact that she was selfish to run out on her family.

“Ricki” benefits immensely from Meryl Streep’s portrayal of the titular character. She dresses like a glam-rocker fresh out of the ’80s, and she totally fits every facet of her character. Her transformation into Ricki is exceptional. She carries a mildly hoarse voice, worn from the protagonist’s many years of singing for her bar band, and tattered by the difficulty of having to finally face the mistakes of her past. Still, her music seems to benefit from this quality. The musical selections she performs with Rick Springfield, Ricki’s love interest and the bassist for the Flash, are one of two major highlights of the film. The other highlight is their banter, both during performances and offstage.

Beyond that, though, there’s hardly anything more to the movie. “Ricki and the Flash” is a huge disappointment, particularly when we look at what potential it had. The script is a merely decent effort from one of today’s greatest comedy-drama screenwriters. It’s also tremendously uneven. I still wonder whether the movie was about Ricki’s efforts to make amends with her family, or Ricki’s efforts to stay with Rick Springfield and enjoy her life with the Flash. She seemed to be doing both interchangeably, and so the film felt misguided. Worse yet, director Jonathan Demme doesn’t seem to truly be doing anything here, other than sitting back and watching the Production Clock tick away. Even the editing is lackluster. “Ricki and the Flash” runs only as long as an hour forty-five, and even then, it overstays its welcome. The film ends on two performances by the titular band. No doubt about it, both were great songs, but our limit as an audience is one. The second performance just feels like an encore, which none of us were really screaming for, anyway.


2 thoughts on “Ricki and the Flash

  1. Great piece. It’s too bad this isn’t better, you’d think with Streep teaming up with Jonathan Demme it’d be a substantial bit. But maybe I’m just associating Demme too much with his seminal Silence of the Lambs.

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