REVIEW: Ricki and the Flash

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by Dustin Heller

Ricki and the Flash is the new comedy-drama film starring Meryl Streep as an aging rock and roll star.  The film is directed by Oscar-winning director Jonathan Demme.  Demme won the award for The Silence of the Lambs, but he’s also directed other excellent films such as Philadelphia and Rachel Getting Married.  The awards don’t stop there as the film is written by Diablo Cody who also won an Academy Award for her writing on the film Juno.

Along with Streep, the film stars her real-life daughter Mamie GummerKevin KlineSebastian StanRick SpringfieldAudra McDonald, and Ben Platt.  This is the third film that Streep and Gummer have appeared in together.  It is also noteworthy that production was slightly delayed as Streep was learning to play the guitar for the role.

The story follows Ricki Randazzo (Streep), an aging rock star who abandoned her husband and three young children at an early age to pursue her dream of music.  Upon receiving a phone call from her ex-husband (Kline) that her daughter (Gummer) is having a very difficult time going through a divorce, Ricki decides to fly to Indianapolis to support her daughter and try to repair the broken relationships she left behind many years ago.

As Ricki tries to help her daughter cope with the loss of a marriage, she also learns that one of her sons will soon be getting married and that she’s not on the invite list.  All of this, along with her struggle to connect with her other son who is gay, makes Ricki start to question some of the choices she made in her life.  Will this trip be a wakeup call or will she run away again as she did years earlier?

There was a lot to be excited about going into Ricki and the Flash: the film stars a three-time Oscar winning actress, is directed by an Oscar winning director, and written by an Oscar winning screenwriter.  The problem is the movie never fully came together and was full of typical movie clichés.  The movie is billed as a comedy-drama, but I didn’t find anything the least bit funny in the film.

I think the blame falls on the screenplay from Cody as it relies too much on the music instead of character development.  For that matter, the music isn’t very good and its not even original music.  I’m afraid Diablo Cody is entering the same realm as M. Night Shyamalan, where her career started out with a bang and ever since has been on a sharp decline.  I just recently watched her last film Paradise, in which she both wrote and directed, and it was terribly clichéd as well and felt very amateur.  She really needs another hit, otherwise she might soon be forgotten.

As for Streep, she is brilliant as always and is able to peel away many different layers of her character.  I’m not sure there is anything she can’t do when it comes to acting.  The film is really about the relationship between a mother and the adult children she abandoned when they were young.  The premise is actually pretty good and has moments where it could have been great, but the movie was really bogged down by all of the musical performances.  The potential was there, but overall I was underwhelmed and wouldn’t recommend a trip to the theater.

Grade:  C-

Ricki and the Flash opens in theaters on Friday, August 7.