Directed by Jonathan Demme. Starring Meryl Streep, Mamie Gimmer, Kevin Kline, Rick Springfield
THE PLOT: Ricki (Meryl Streep) is a musician who gave up her marriage and her relationship with her children for the sake of her career. Reduced to playing in a dive bar in the San Fernando Valley, Ricki reunites with her family after her daughter Julie’s (Mamie Gummer) husband leaves her. Ricki’s former husband Pete (Kevin Kline) may be grateful to see her, but her kids are most certainly not…
THE VERDICT: It doesn’t feel that long since writer Diablo Cody brought us into the world of Mavis Gary in YOUNG ADULT, and she has returned to the territory of a disenfranchised woman returning home to the scene of her greatest disasters with RICKI AND THE FLASH.
It is not really surprising that Meryl Streep is electric as the lead character, Ricki. Streep embodies the character well, making her charming and endearing, if ever so slightly misinformed and erring on the side of right wing. Mamie Gummer is strong as Ricki’s manic, depressed and angry daughter, who seems to blame her mother for all of her problems. The idea of casting Streep’s daughter as her on screen daughter could be seen as stunt casting, but she does well with the role. Kevin Kline does well with that he is given as Ricki’s ex-husband Pete and Rick Springfield is warm and kind as Ricki’s band mate and sometime lover Greg.
Diablo Cody’s screenplay, as mentioned, seems very familiar in the light of her previous work YOUNG ADULT; Ricki is another delusional woman who returns home and is given some life lessons she didn’t necessarily want. The character is also another woman who is emotionally closed off and seems to be in some kind of arrested development as she denies wrongdoing in any part of her life. it is not that these are not powerful messages, it is more that we have seen this before, from the same writer, not that long ago. The final resolution of the film is more than a little convenient too, which undermines the role of Ricki as the outsider that the audience should root for.
As director, Jonathan Demme allows Meryl Streep to be vibrant and bright at the centre of the film, but once she returns home from visiting her family, the film stumbles and seems to run out of steam. It seems that this was to be compensated for by throwing in a load of songs by Meryl Streep as Ricki – and her band The Flash – and while Streep is a helluva performer, the songs do nothing to move the story along, instead stifling and stilting it.
In all, if you have seen YOUNG ADULT, then you have seen RICKI AND THE FLASH. That said, Streep makes this film watchable and her performance is great, but she is hampered by some muddled directing, overuse of songs and the feeling that we have seen all of this before.
Review by Brogen Hayes

Review by Brogen Hayes
3.0Familiar but fun
  • filmbuff2011

    Ricki And The Flash shares a lot in common with Jonathan Demme’s 2008 film Rachel Getting Married. But unlike that film, it signifies a disappointing drop in quality from the director of The Silence Of The Lambs. Ricki (Meryl Streep) is the lead singer in her band, which mostly plays to a bar in California. It’s not exactly the Hollywood Bowl or Madison Square Garden, but she’s content with it. Ricki is something of a washed-up singer. Nothing new there in terms of professional stereotypes, but it’s time for her to change. When she gets a call from her ex-husband Pete (Kevin Kline), it’s a cry for help. Their troubled daughter Julie (Mamie Gummer, Streep’s real-life daughter) has attempted suicide in the wake of her marriage falling apart and her husband leaving her. Ricki has never been much of a mother to Julie, as she’s been on the road too much. Or perhaps she just wasn’t really interested. When she arrives at Pete’s house, she finds Julie a mess and unable to process what has happened. It doesn’t help that her brother is getting married either. Awkward family dinners ensue. Ricki sees a slim chance to try and redeem herself in the eyes of Julie, to re-connect with her and be there for her. After all these years, this is Ricki’s chance to finally put things right… Jonathan Demme is a curious director. He has bags of talent, a great eye for character traits and is great at working with actors. His films can be hit and miss – for every The Manchurian Candidate there’s a The Truth About Charlie. Somehow the combination of his directing and Diablo Cody’s script feels like a mismatch. On a good day, his films feel special and apart from the norm. Ricki And The Flash feels like a very ordinary and very average film from an above-average director. No fault to the actors – Streep and Kline are incapable of giving bad performances and manage to paper over the cracks in Cody’s script. How many awkward moments can you have? Even if it’s a little familiar, this is a story that should feel more emotive and powerful – in the way that Rachel Getting Married did. Demme’s direction feels indifferent and didn’t really convince this reviewer to care enough about the characters. There’s nothing majorly wrong with Ricki And The Flash – it’s just that it doesn’t feel good enough. We should expect more from Demme, who seems to be on autopilot for this one. A disappointment. **

  • emerb

    “Ricki And The Flash” is a lively rock and roll redemption tale directed by Jonathan Demme and with a smart script from Diablo Cody. Starring Meryl Streep as the titular Ricki Randazzo, an aging free spirit and bar-band front woman who returns home to try to make amends with her estranged family, it’s an enjoyable and touching domestic drama that’s well worth watching.

    Sarcastic, bitter and chatty Ricki (real name Linda Brummel) just about manages to hold onto her bland day job at a local grocery store. She lives in a drab low-rent L.A. apartment and at night she struts her stuff with her band “The Flash”, belting through endless crowd pleasing hits for drowsy barflies at The Salt Wheel, an L.A. roadhouse. Struggling to make ends meet and keeping up a half-hearted romance with lively Flash lead guitarist Greg (played by former soap star and eighties rocker Rick Springfield), she is your typical middle aged female rocker complete with thumb rings, block heels, ratty braids, smudged mascara, and with an ugly “Don’t Tread On Me” tattoo on her back. When a family emergency plucks her out of her routine and back to the sleepy Indiana suburb she abandoned years ago in pursuit of rock stardom, she can barely afford the ticket. She has been called on by her wealthy but kindly ex-husband Pete (Kevin Kline) to help him deal with their antagonistic, suicidal adult daughter Julie (Mamie Gummer, Streep’s real life daughter). Julie is a wreck and has been abruptly dumped by her husband for another woman. From the outset it’s clear she will find it difficult to fit in. There’s long-standing bitterness and tension between Ricki and her three grown-up children who were effectively raised by stepmother Maureen (Audra McDonald) after Ricki left, and her arrival erupts into pure chaos as mother and daughter rip into each other exchanging barbs. So begins an uneasy journey in which the foul-mouthed Ricki awkwardly attempts to insert herself into an unfamiliar white collar setting and make peace with her neglectful ways. When the family sits down for a hectic dinner, Ricki must not only swallow the news of her son’s homosexuality but she also learns she hasn’t
    been invited to her other son’s upcoming wedding. Despite these tough odds,
    deep down there is love there and we watch as Ricki slowly attempts to regain her maternal role and form a fragile bond with her children. While she doesn’t try to make amends for her wrongs, she does try to reconnect with them as adults and form a new relationship.

    Streep is magnificent as the middle aged heroine and it’s her performance that holds the film together. Her character is entirely credible and as always, Streep finds just the right balance between funny/sad and loud/subtle. Totally committed to Ricki, she is positively effervescent in the part, sassy and in good voice. While
    by no means a showy performance, she finds her way deep into the soul of each of her songs and she can really sing. She also shows remarkable chemistry with Springfield, whose grizzled appearance and equally somber family history makes him a perfect match for Ricki’s troubled past.

    “Ricki and The Flash” has real heart and genuine musical soul. The quality of the cast and crew elevates the material as it is basically just a story of a fractured family reuniting and finding a way to move forward. For me, it is a warm and breezy but emotional dysfunctional family dramedy that could end up being a surprisingly good hit this summer. It should appeal across the board but to female audiences in particular and dedicated Streep fans (of which I am one) will come out for it in their droves. The musical numbers, which were all filmed live
    with Streep singing and playing rhythm guitar, are uniformly superb and the locations and settings make it feel retro and refreshing. Bearing many similarities to both “Young Adult” and “Rachel Getting Married” (two other films I really enjoyed), familial discord is the dominant theme but there is also a subtle but very effective focus on the healing power of music. For me, “Ricki and The Flash” was both engaging and real – I’d recommend checking this one out.

  • Randy

    While not perfect this is one the most satisfying movies I’ve seen in a long while and I’d heartily recommend it to anyone who’s yearning for some feel-good without getting something sappy and overly sentimental. This is a story about Ricki, and her family (biological and her band) – people who’re imperfect, and who make mistakes. Featuring the most diverse cast seen in a long time (racially, different sexuality) this is a funny (esp. dark humour) and satisfying film and Meryl personifies and aging rocker with ease. Featuring some great tunes played live, without enhancement, it hits close to home. Suitable for all ages and highly recommended.