It’s a family affair – ★★★★
Meryl Streep playing an aging rock star is not my idea of an enticing prospect, but against all the odds Ricki and the Flash is actually one of the year’s most surprising cinematic efforts.
Directed by Jonathan Demme from a script by Diablo Cody, the film tells the story of Ricki (Meryl Streep), “a one-time wife and mother of three who left her family behind to follow her dreams of rock ‘n’ roll stardom in California.” (per the official blurb). Her daughter Julie (Mamie Gummer) gets shafted by her new husband so Ricki’s ex-husband (Kevin Kline) gives Ricki a call to come and try to console her back in Indianapolis. This throws Ricki back into her old life and forces her into confronting the reality that her adult children have settled into a new life with a more loving, attentive step-mother. Meanwhile she’s also got to work out just what she’s doing with her own life and whether her feelings for lead guitarist Greg (rocker Rick Springfield) are real.
The film is a dramatic comedy that does have plenty of laughs, we know that Kevin Kline can bring laughs but Streep more than holds her own with plenty of moments that will have your mother in stitches and the fairly PC plot (no visible drug-use or heavy boozing for these rock stars) places it firmly as a nice 12A family film. Diablo Cody’s script is well done and does leave you in a state of conflict over your allegiances between Ricki and her “replacement mother” Maureen. The real magic of the film is in the relationship between Streep and her real-life daughter Mamie Gummer – obviously you’d expect chemistry but Gummer’s performance isn’t the typical helpless, depressed victim and instead brings a display of real energy, anger and humour. Diablo Cody has had a few ups and downs in recent years, but she’s in great form and at the top of her game writing the troubled mother-daughter dynamic.
The film’s real delight is in the music, sampling some wonderfully retro and cheesy classic rock tunes. Streep learned to play rock guitar from Neil Young who Demme obviously recommended having worked on a number of documentary projects with him over the years. She more than holds her own but is propped up expertly by Demme’s well-selected rock band aka “The Flash”. Demme is happy to let the full songs play out fully and a good 30 minutes of the 100 minute runtime are probably classic rock tunes. Heck, I’m not complaining.
As the old adage says, the light and fluffy story won’t be for everyone but if you see this film in the right mood and setting, it’s hard not to fall under its spell.
Opening in Irish cinemas September 4th 2015