FILM: Rick and The Flash



In Ricki and The Flash, Meryl Streep plays ageing rocker Ricki Rendazzo, a woman who abandoned her husband and three kids years ago to pursue a career as musician.  Now in her 60s, Ricki’s dream of making it big haven’t quite transpired so she plays function gigs in a local bar in Tanzana, California with her similarly ageing band mates (Rick Springfield, Rick Rosas, Joe Vitale and Joe Toutebon).

Struggling financially and artistically, Ricki splits her time performing covers of the likes of Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen (and more surprisingly, Pink and Lady Gaga) and working as check-out clerk in a supermarket.

Out of the blue she receives a call from her ex-husband Pete (Kevin Kline) asking her to return to Indiana to help their daughter Julie (played by Streep’s real life daughter Mamie Gummer  – ferocious and funny) who has recently been jilted by her cheating husband.

Ricki, at first reluctant to step back into the world she abandoned, decides to make the trip and soon finds herself just as uncomfortable in the world she rejected all those years ago.  At first hostile and full of rage towards her mother (and pretty much everyone) Julie soon warms to the presence of someone not afraid to tell her a few home truths.

Treading more carefully with Pete and her two sons, (one straight and about to be married, the other gay and resentful towards his mother’s more right wing attitude towards his sexuality), Ricki finds herself almost enjoying being back with her family until the return of Pete’s new wife Maureen (Audra McDonald), a seemingly super-being who essentially raised her children.

The scenes between Streep, Kline and Gummer bristle with a comfortable history that both entertain and convince. At first full of torment and confusion, Julie and ultimately Pete, concede that Ricki’s presence is a positive one resulting in a lovely played scene where they get high and Streep performs the films only original song, the gorgeous ‘Cold One’ (which will almost definitely result in a live performance at next years Oscars).

For my money the strongest, most telling scene in the film is actually between Maureen and Ricki.  These two women collide but not in an obvious way. Maureen is shiny, perfect and passive aggressive but ultimately her main concern is for the abandoned family she raised. Ricki is no match for Maureen yet her heart and soul shine through.

This moment in the film could so easily have gone all Hollywood but instead Streep never betrays her character and you watch as the more educated Maureen chinks away at her armour. Not to destroy but to protect. It’s a wonderful scene, beautifully played by both actresses and one fleeting moment that elevates Ricki and The Flash to more than just glossy entertainment.

It’s a pity then that director Jonathan Demme and screenwriter Diablo Cody can’t sustain this, opting instead to send Ricki back to California for the 2nd act to the far less interesting storyline involving her romance with Pete (Springfield). 

There are decent moments here but it feels like filler and simply the opportunity to allow Streep to perform more songs.  That she does most impressively but it doesn’t drive the narrative and comes across like the filmmakers had simply run out of ideas.

By the time Ricki returns to Indiana to attend the wedding of her son, the momentum has somewhat been lost.  The cast work their hardest and there is a terrific moment between mother and daughter during the ceremony, but the whole shebang is rather too neatly tied up. Having said that there is so much to enjoy here and Streep is simply magnificent.


Meryl Streep plays failed rockstar Ricki in this tremendously fun and witty musical comedy from director Jonathan Demme (Rachel Getting Married) and writer Diablo Cody (Juno).

Ricki and her band ‘the Flash’ regularly perform at a local bar in California to a reasonable crowd – playing old school rock jams from Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen as well as a few modern tunes to get the kids dancing. I have to say their rendition of Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance was amazing!

Ricki’s “rock and roll lifestyle” is interrupted when her ex-husband (Kevin Kline) calls because he needs her help to get their daughter Julie (Mamie Gummer in a stand out performance) out of her depression after her husband leaves her.

Ricki (aka Linda) is compelled to go back to her family in Indiana, whom she previously abandoned to pursue her music career. And this is where the film really finds its feet. Streep (no surprise there) and Gummer are superb playing the hostile mother/daughter relationship to perfection. Gummer really holds her own and deserves to be propelled to stardom.

Is there anything that Streep can’t do? Her performance is convincing as the failed musician who won’t give up on her music — it is her life and it’s all she can do. Strep plays a pretty mean guitar and belts out an authentic rough and ready rockstar vocal.

The script is razor sharp and I would expect nothing less from Diablo Cody, who’s incredibly intelligent, funny and truthful script for Juno won her the Oscar back in 2008.

Unfortunately I don’t think this will create much Oscar buzz, yes the script is witty and the performances are great but there are moments of sappy redemption that are quite cliché of this kind of story.

However, saying that, there are the clichéd plot twists that could have easily been taken but never are. Ricki stays true to herself throughout- she is a rockstar and music is her life, something that is poignantly expressed in her acoustic performance of the song she wrote, Cold One, about leaving her family behind but having no regrets.

For me there was a brief slump in the middle but the film, where we return to California to the less interesting plot involving Ricki’s current flame, Pete (played by rock star Rick Springfield). But the film brought it back for the final wedding scene where we have a satisfying resolution but without compromise on anyone’s part.

Audra Macdonald is also brilliant in this as Kline’s new wife, Maureen, and the mother his children never had. In the classic stand off between Ricki and Maureen, both women are given their moment to shine in a battle of wit vs well Ricki, and we sympathize with the two of them equally.

Ricki and the Flash is a charming film and it was fun to spend time with these complex, honest characters. When the dialogue stops we are provided with some entertaining musical performances to bop along to, meaning the film is an entertaining watch.

Niki Alexandrou

Matt Williams

Ricki and The Flash will be released in the UK on September 18th

Niki Alexandrou

Niki Alexandrou

Niki Alexandrou

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