“Ricki and The Flash” IT ISN’T TERRIBLE!!!!

By Scott Kurland
Film: Ricki and The Flash
Starring: Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline, Mamie Gummer, Audra McDonald, Sebastian Stan, Ben Platt, and Rick Springfield
Rated R
Director: Jonathan Demme

I normally tease the movies I write about. I give you some fun fact about something slightly related to the movie. Then I relate it back to the movie I’m reviewing. I’m not going to do that this time. This week’s movie is “Ricki and the Flash”, and it surprised me...because I kind of liked it. I saw the trailers, and I thought this film is just a vehicle for Meryl Streep to sing and say Diablo Cody dialog. Which it is, and she does both those things. However the more I watched it, the longer I found myself hooked. Maybe it’s because I use to see cover bands in bars and personally knew a guy who acted like Ricki. You know what I’m talking about. The guy who plays guitar in a cover band, can spout off music trivia, but thinks singing the music makes him John Fogerty. “Ricki and the Flash” does all that, now lets find out why it hooked me, shall we?

  “Ricki and The Flash” is the story of Ricki (real name Linda) who lives in Tarzana, California. By day she is a checkout clerk at a “Whole Foods” knock off chain called “Total Foods”. By night she is the lead singer and rhythm guitar player for “Ricki and The Flash”. She acts like Stevie Nicks, and even dates her lead guitarist Greg (Rick Springfield). Just like how Stevie Nicks dated Lindsey Buckingham. However, Ricki is estranged from her three kids (Sebastian Stan, Nick Westrate, and Streep’s real life daughter Mamie Gummer), and ex-husband Pete (Kevin Kline). When their daughter Julie (Gummer) is divorced by her husband, Ricki must fly to Indiana to be there for her daughter. Ricki also has to learn how to reconnect with her entire family, and put her own issues aside. Can she stop being Ricki and learn to be mom?

As I said before I’m shocked I liked this film. As a whole film, it shouldn’t work. The story is basic. The characters, although flawed have too much of a happy ending. The dialog is that basic Diablo Cody “I’m ok, you’re ok. Let’s make pop culture jokes and laugh at ourselves” speak. Don’t get me wrong, I like Diablo Cody. I like her style. I like her imperfect characters that we all seem to love. Yet, keep in mind Jonathan Demme directed this film. The man directed “Silence of the Lambs” and “Philadelphia”, back to back. He isn’t known for making warm and fuzzy family dramedies. Demme is more of a political thriller drama type. What he’s made here is more of a musical comedy. It’s not a great film, but it’s very likable and he puts his talents to good use. 

What can I say about Meryl? She can do no wrong. Her Ricki is not a perfect person. Ricki has made so many mistakes, but she knows how to help others, and she does that starting with her daughter. The chemistry Streep and her real life daughter Mamie Gummer have is incredible. It should be a given that they’d work well together considering they’re family, but have you seen Charlie and Martin Sheen act? FEH!!! Gummer and Streep bring love, humor, and hostility to their characters. Gummer’s Julie is a mess, and Streep’s Ricki is a recovering mess so that makes for a great conflict and resolution aspect. Streep isn’t going to get an Oscar for playing Ricki, but she might get a golden globe nomination. Same goes for Gummer, she gives a really hard hitting performance and holds her own with her mom.

I can now say that I have seen a lifelong dream come to fruition. I have seen Rick Springfield dress like Bruce Springsteen; and play a Springsteen song. I’m shocked at how good Springfield was in this film.  To me, casting Springfield is a bit of a throwback. He was huge in the 80s with “Jessie’s girl” and  starring on “General Hospital”, and then he kind of fell into the shadows. I’ve met a lot of guys like his character Greg. You know the type. Here’s a man stuck in the 80s and thinks his classic Rock cover band is going to make it big. That is why Springfield works as Greg, he is aware that he is an 80’s icon, and he embraces that to make Greg work on screen. 

Springfield is not the only 80’s icon in this film. As you all know, I am a huge fan of the film “A Fish Called Wanda”, and an even bigger Kevin Kline fan. Kline isn’t getting as many roles as he should these days, but he really sells the ones he’s in. Even if the film is bad, Kline makes his character likable and empathetic. This is Kline’s third film with Streep, and after all these years those two know how to make their chemistry work. Kline’s Pete still loves Ricki, but he had to move on and remarry. Kline’s reserve and quiet desperation to make his family work is what makes Pete the unsung hero of “Ricki and the Flash”. 

“Ricki and the Flash” reminded  me of another musical dramedy, Tom Hank’s “That Thing You Do!” Both films have a great soundtrack, harmless plots, but for some reason they both shouldn’t be as good as they are. Like “That Thing You Do!”, “Ricki and the Flash” grows on you and becomes a decent film. I was pleasantly surprised that I took to “Ricki and The Flash” the way I did. “Ricki and the Flash” isn’t a big budget blockbuster, nor is it a gross out comedy, but it has its moments. If you are tired of Marvel Films, animated emotions, and want a nice date night movie check out “Ricki and the Flash”.

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