The Flick Chicks

Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews

Ricki and the Flash | Meryl Streep, Kevin Kilne, Rick Springfield, Mamie Gummer, Audra McDonald, Sebastian Stan, Nick Westrate, Charlotte Rae | Review

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Jacqueline  Monahan

Las Vegas Round The Clock
Jacqueline Monahan is an educator for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
She is also an entertainment reporter for
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Ricki and the Flash | Meryl Streep, Kevin Kilne, Rick Springfield, Mamie Gummer, Audra McDonald, Sebastian Stan, Nick Westrate, Charlotte Rae | Review

First impression of this film and its premise:  What were they thinking?
That includes everyone involved: the A-list, three-time Academy-Award-winning star, the pedigreed director, and the edgy screenwriter.  Here goes:
Ricki Randazzo (Meryl Streep) is the aging lead singer of The Flash, a cover band that plays in a small San Fernando Valley bar, the kind where boozy regulars shout out requests and dance with abandon to boomer hits of the past.  Fellow band member Greg (Rick Springfield) has the unrequited hots for Ricki, which makes her about as uncomfortable as the audience is seeing the Oscar winner populate such a puzzling, ill-fitting stereotype of a role.
Ricki, whose given name is Linda, is the estranged mother of three grown children, whom she left to “follow her dream” of being a rock star.  We know that rock’s her preferred genre of music because she wears her hair in a kind of asymmetrical half-head braid, and loads her neck, fingers and toes with as much metal jewelry as she can bear.  Tattoo? Check.  Eyeliner overkill?  Check.  Because she is the embodiment of rock, you see.  And we must never, ever forget that.
The wildly contrived plot features a bunch of one-note, underdeveloped characters, none of which are capable of making decisions that mirror real life, starting with daughter Julie (real-life daughter Mamie Gummer).  Julie’s impending divorce, attempted suicide and subsequent depression alarm her father, Pete, Ricki’s ex, (Kevin Kline) who summons Ricki, a many-years-absent mom, to intervene because his second wife, Maureen (Audra McDonald) is out of town.  Makes sense.  NOT!
Pete’s owns a huge Indianapolis estate, and the family is extremely privileged.  None of them know any real hardship, so Julie’s predicament and overarching anger, vicious resentment, and despair is hard to swallow, coming across as an extreme temper tantrum from a spoiled rich girl.  Brothers Josh (Sebastian Stan) and Andrew (Nick Westrate) are a little more even-keeled, but we barely get to know them, although Josh has a fiancé (Hailey Gates) who thinks Ricki is hella weird.
Ricki supplements her meager band earnings by working as a cashier at Total Foods, a snooty retail grocery store serving a clientele that is several socio-economic strata above hers.  This is ostensibly to show us her love of music; she must, to put up with her day job, lack of money, and decidedly un-glamorous personal life.
Now she’s in the lap of luxury as a stranger in her own family, lacking even the cab fare to get her there from the airport, and wildly out of place in dress and behavior because that is more in-your-face than any character having some sort of discretion or decorum, aside from the weary Pete, who looks on almost as bewildered as the viewer.
RatF comes across as a series of random vignettes designed to put pithy one-liners into characters’ mouths while making them do spur of the moment public confessions that cause uncomfortable scenes.  Talk about entitlement.  Screenwriter Cody Diablo’s (Juno) script eschews manners for contentious caterwauling that can happen at a moment’s notice, no matter the circumstances. Inappropriate, unrealistic dialogue is constructed for conflict, not common sense.
Streep gives Ricki a low, boozy voice and lurching gait as if perpetually inebriated.  She belts out several numbers from beginning to end and plays her own instrument(s) but these are all covers that were hits for others.  An attempt at an original song is kept in a private setting.  Kline’s Pete nearly apologizes for being in the film.  Gummer is malevolent so much of the time that she’s like an instrument herself, one that can play only one note.  Charlotte Rae has a tiny role as Oma, the elderly family matriarch and the only character that has a legitimate right to be confused about her surroundings.  Everyone else should know better.
Director Jonathan Demme (Philadelphia) seems to take a backseat in this meandering tale of an estranged family and their instant unification after decades of turbulence because their absentee embarrassment of a mom suddenly sings a Springsteen tune.
Streep is so far above this material that I can’t help but wonder why she took the role.  She’s too dignified to be a showoff and has nothing to prove here except that she can make a bad decision.
Can she ever.
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