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article imageReview: Meryl Streep is dazzling in ‘Ricki and the Flash’ Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Aug 7, 2015 in Entertainment
‘Ricki and the Flash’s story leaves a lot to be desired, but Meryl Streep is fabulous as she steps out of her comfort zone to play an aged rock star.
Children are regularly told they can be anything they want; that their dreams are obtainable. No one ever mentions that life doesn’t always go as planned and can get in the way of achieving your goals. Or that ambitions change and life choices with them. It’s not easy and there’s always sacrifices to be made, but those are the decisions everyone must make for themselves. In Ricki and the Flash, a woman chose the less beaten path and is now hoping it can reconnect to the original.
Ricki Rendazzo (Meryl Streep) used to be Linda Brummell before she ran away to Los Angeles to be a musician, leaving behind her husband (Kevin Kline) and three young children. Now in her 50s, she and her band, the Flash, play covers at a local bar where they have a regular gig and devoted fan base. That being the peak of her success, she works days at a high-end supermarket and is filing for bankruptcy. But when Ricki receives a call from her ex-husband that their only daughter is inconsolable after the unexpected break-up of her marriage, she drops everything to go back to Indiana. Even though she no longer fits into her old life, her carefree attitude is exactly what they need even if they don’t see it at first.
This is a major departure for Streep. The Steven Tyler look complete with leather pants and jacket, asymmetrical braids and an abundance of jewellery surprisingly work for Streep. And her appearance definitely informs her performance. When in full costume, she stands with thumbs in her belt loops and walks with a tougher swagger befitting of an L.A. musician. When she’s on stage, she has a wonderful presence and energy that gives the impression this is a band that would have loyal followers. Moreover, they sound amazing covering songs from Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers, Bruce Springsteen and U2. Ricki’s relationship with lead guitarist, Greg (a still rocking Rick Springfield), is shaky but there’s definitely chemistry between them, which makes theirs the most genuine connection in the picture.
Unfortunately the family drama half of the story doesn’t work. As Ricki puts it, she made the same choice as countless men but with much harsher results. Having practically abandoned them decades ago, the antagonistic relationship with her now grown children is expected but not believable. Watching them interact is the most excruciating aspect of the film, though Streep’s collaboration with her real-life daughter, Mamie Gummer, provides some relief. The derision and judgement Ricki encounters at every turn is ridiculous, producing caricatures even too fantastic for a Diablo Cody script. Moreover, their scorn is in complete opposition to the adoration still exhibited by her ex-husband. Streep has starred in far better films in the same genre, but that’s surely not what attracted her to this picture.
Director: Jonathan Demme
Starring: Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline and Mamie Gummer
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