Monday, August 10, 2015

Movie Review #294: "Ricki and the Flash" (2015)

Movie"Ricki and the Flash"
Ticket Price: $12.50
Director: Jonathan Demme
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 1 hour, 42 minutes
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Ricki (Meryl Streep) is an aging rocker who left her family in Indiana many years ago to move to L.A. and pursue her music dreams. One day, she gets a call from her ex-husband Pete (Kevin Kline) informing her that their daughter Julie's (Mamie Gummer) husband has left her and is filing for divorce, leaving their daughter in a severe depression. Pete asks Ricki to fly to Indiana to try and bring their daughter out of her depressed funk.

Meryl Streep singing a Lady Gaga song? I think I've died and gone to heaven!

"Ricki and the Flash" is a film about an estranged mother of three who chose to put her dreams of becoming a rock and roller over the needs of her family and now must make amends for those choices. Ricki, whose real name is Linda, played by the always fabulous Meryl Streep, left her husband Pete, who is played by the very talented Kevin Kline, when their kids were still in grade school. Pete remarried a woman named Maureen, played by Audra McDonald, who took over the parenting duties and raised Ricki's kids as if they were her own. Ricki saw less and less of her kids as the years went on, and now hardly sees them at all. This has led to strained relationships, blame, and some massive shoulder chips. Even though she dropped everything to become a famous musician, she never really made it as a rock star and has been reduced to spending her insomniatic nights playing with her group The Flash as the house band at a small bar. By day, she works at a grocery store called Total Foods, a play on the grocery chain Whole Foods, which specializes in high priced specialty and organic foods. One afternoon, Ricki receives a call from ex-husband Pete that their daughter Julie, played by Streep's real life daughter Mamie Gummer, has sunk into a depression after her husband cheated on her. According to Pete, he did the unthinkable and has asked Ricki to come and see if she can help Julie in some way, even though it has obviously been years since she has been back to see her kids. Ricki quickly finds out Julie's problems go deeper than she was told and must find a way to reconnect with her daughter, whose life is falling apart at the seams.

Written by Academy Award winning screenwriter Diablo Cody, this movie definitely has her signature trademark style as she often deals with subjects like broken families and adult immaturity told in a dramedy narrative style. Her stories often include somewhat quirky characters, and there are certainly many opinionated people in this movie. The film is directed by Academy Award winning director Jonathan Demme, who is best known for directing "The Silence of the Lamb" and "Philadelphia." So, when you have an Oscar winning director, an Oscar winning writer, and the most talented Oscar winning actress in the history of cinema in Meryl Streep, expectations are obviously pretty high. Though not bad, this film is not exceptional. We totally believe Meryl in her role as Ricki and she sells herself very well. It seems as if Streep herself approached Cody and Demme and said, "you know what? I want to make a movie about being an aging rockstar," and who can blame her? She can pretty much do whatever the hell she wants at this point, and though she has sung in movies in the past, it's cool to watch Meryl bust out her rock 'n roll chops. Unfortunately, we don't get nearly as much depth with the other characters in the film as we do with her. BigJ and I differ just a little bit about this though. I personally think Julie and her on-screen brother Adam, played by Nick Westrate, have quite a bit of character development individually. Julie's life is turned upside down when her husband cheats on her, and she does go into a bit of depth as far as her marriage and subsequent divorce are concerned. Gummer also sells the role of an understandably angry, jaded, hurt, and torn apart woman with nowhere left to turn but her mother who essentially abandoned her at a young age. Wouldn't you be upset, too? Adam, on the other hand, talks about his life in terms of his sexuality, something Ricki was obviously never sold on. BigJ thinks that her kids were simply there on screen, but beyond them being upset about her abandoning them, we don't get much of a sense of them individually. While it's true that her two sons only get one dinner scene for audiences to get a sense of who they are before the final climactic redemption event, I guess because of this movie's immense predictability, I took this scene as their only character development. Conflicts are often breezed over too quickly and the film doesn't get as heavy as the subject matter would seem to require. We were left with a lack of emotional oomph. The film wraps up right where we would expect, leaving very few surprises throughout its run time. We do have to admit, watching Streep rock on stage with real life rocker Rick Springfield was a treat, and coming off of the new "Fantastic Four," well, anything's better than that piece of trash movie. "Ricki and the Flash" is not the best movie we have seen from any of these actors, writers, or directors, but it's sure not awful.

My Rating: 7/10
BigJ's Rating: 6.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 6.3/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 60%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?

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