Thursday, August 06, 2015

“Ricki And The Flash”– Movie Review




This week, I attended a New York Times Film Club screening of the new comedy-drama, “Ricki And The Flash” starring Meryl Streep, directed by Jonathan Demme and written by Diablo Cody.


When a woman visits her family after abandoning them years earlier to pursue a music career, will she be able to repair the relationships she’s broken by her choice?


Decades ago, Ricki Randazzo (Streep) started a family with her then-husband Pete (Kevin Kline): two sons, Adam (Nick Westrate) and Josh (Sebastian Stan) and one daughter Julie (Mamie Gummer). Still unfulfilled, she divorced Pete and left the family to start a career as a rock-and-roll singer. Joining a band called The Flash, they play cover songs by famous rock bands and perform in bars throughout California to small audiences of varying ages. Although never finding success after all of these years, Ricki is nevertheless happy living this lifestyle, despite the fact that she has to support herself by making a meager living as a cashier at a supermarket chain.

Having not heard from her family in quite some time, Ricki is surprised to suddenly get a call from Pete, who insists she visit because Julie recently attempted suicide. Ricki breaks the news to the band’s lead guitarist Greg (Rick Springfield) that she must leave town due to a family emergency and heads off to Indianapolis for a brief family reunion. Once there, none of her adult children are happy to see her, including and especially Julie, who is now heavily medicated and under the care of a psychiatrist. Julie explains the reason for her suicide attempt was due to her husband leaving her for another woman.

Later, when Pete’s wife Maureen (Audra McDonald) shows up and proves to Ricki that she has been quite capable of providing the domestic stability Ricki could not, Maureen has a tête–à–tête with Ricki and advises her that she is no longer wanted or needed in this family and that her presence is a mere distraction during an otherwise difficult time. Angrily, Ricki returns to her band to continue their low-paying gigs when Maureen attempts a peace offering by inviting her to Josh’s upcoming wedding. Can a conflicted Ricki attend the wedding or will she permanently put her family behind her forever?


With Meryl Streep starring, Jonathan Demme directing and Diablo Cody crafting the screenplay, it is both shocking and disappointing that “Ricki And The Flash” comes across as nothing more than a made-for-TV movie that has big names attached. Cody’s comedy is very hit-or-miss and there are many opportunities for more jokes that are missed altogether. Streep and Demme appear to be onboard for this solely because of the music angle. Streep singing in her rock-hound character and Demme shooting a variant of a musical. The other thing these two appear to have in common is their nepotistic hiring practices: judging from the credits, Demme seems to have employed some of his family while Streep has her real-life daughter playing her movie-daughter.

Streep seems to go overboard emoting during the numbers, rather than merely perform them, which probably would’ve been a more realistic performance (and considerably less cringe-worthy). As far as the way the music scenes are shot, there does not appear to be anything creative or inventive Demme adds to them; aside from occasional close-ups of some of Springfield’s guitar solos, there’s really not much interesting to watch there. Cody’s screenplay wants us to believe that Ricki has been beaten up enough throughout the movie that she deserves a happy ending of some sort, but the resolution of the story is really not terribly believable.

“Ricki And The Flash” is very much a woman’s tale in the sense that it asks the question of why a woman will be shamed for leaving her family to pursue a different lifestyle whereas a man who did the same thing might be commended. Unfortunately, this movie is built on a false premise and seems to suddenly become somewhat aware of it too late. Any sort of edge Diablo Cody may have had in her writing appears to have been lost, or at the very least, missing in this particular script. The story here seems to have been kidnapped by The Movie Reality Of Magical Thinking and contrivances abound. 


Ricki and the Flash (2015) on IMDb

No comments:

Post a Comment

Speak Your Piece, Beeyotch!