Just how many personas can Meryl Streep adopt? From characters engulfed by trauma and loss, to fashionistas and now to an ageing rock star. Her versatility and courage to explore the nuances of lives so far removed from one another has become a hallmark of her Oscar-winning career.
Ricki and the Flash is not one of the great dramatic portrayals for which Meryl Streep is justly known. Rather it is rock music from the 1970’s and 80’s that highlights this production. Ricki, played by Meryl Streep is a dysfunctional rocker, divorced from her husband Pete (played by Kevin Kline) and estranged from her daughter Julie (played by Mamie Gummer, the real-life daughter of Meryl Streep). Ricki sacrificed her marriage and family to realise the dream of becoming a pop legend.
Now in her 60’s Ricki is still trying to reach the pinnacle of fame. The live show venues where Ricki and the Flash strut their stuff plainly state the lack of progress towards stardom. The venues are primarily low key, seedy and boisterous nightclubs or bars where the band has a loyal and enthusiastic following. Despite the lack of wider recognition, Ricki has the stage art and the music to wow an audience. The live gigs are a delight with band members including Rick Springfield, Bernie Worrell and the late Rick Rosas displaying their considerable musical prowess. The guitar playing is quite exceptional. With such support, Ricki is well placed to achieve stardom, but it is the personal aspects of her life that thwart progress.
Humour plays a key role in the unfolding story and counterpoints the moments of pathos particularly as Ricki comes to terms with the suffering her obsession to succeed has caused. Daughter Julie is a deeply unhappy and fractious individual locked in combat with Ricki. Julie blames Ricki for the ‘loveless’ childhood she endured. Confronted with this reality, Ricki is overcome by guilt and remorse but as a ‘failed mother’, lacks the skills to bridge the divide. The dramatic narrative centres around the rebuilding of relationships between mother, daughter, ex-husband and lead guitarist Greg (Rick Springfield).
By Meryl Streep standards, the plot does not have the gravitas required to display her vast repertoire of performance skills, however the film does bring to the fore personal relationship issues familiar to many viewers. That, and the wonderful music make Ricki and the Flash a film well worth seeing.
Ricki and the Flash is directed by Jonathan Demme and written by Diablo Cody.
Produced by Sony Pictures.
Duration 1hr. 42 minutes.
Showing in Australian cinemas from August 2015. Available on DVD from November 24th.