Meryl Streep is the ultimate thespian chameleon. Perhaps this is why any decent female actor fears that the year she has an Oscar worthy performance Meryl will simply make a movie. That said Ricki and the Flash, Meryl's latest film doesn't quite flash so much with the critics.
Meryl plays Ricki (aka Linda) a mom of three who left her family for LA and her dreams to be a rock star. Fast forward, her husband Pete (Keven Klein) has moved on, done very well financially and married again. Her three kids have grown up, reared by their step mom, Mareen (Audra McDonald). Meanwhile Ricki's dream has not worked out so well. She and her group are the house band in a small bar in LA. During the day she works in grocer. She is flat broke and having commitment issues with her lead guitarist Greg (Rick Springfield) who is the voice of reason and madly in love with her.
Pete calls her home to deal with their daughter Julie (played by Mamie Gummer - Streep's real life daughter) whose husband has walked out on her causing her to spiral into depression. The rest one can imagine. Ricki has to face her past - what she left and lost and what she has become. The family has to deal with her showing back up and their pent up feelings.
All the touchy feely aside - which I must say is thankfully dealt with in a humane way to the audience without too much gnashing of teeth, reliving the past, and drama. Yes, there is emotion and the raw pain, loss, and guilt but thanks to Diablo Cody (who also wrote "Juno") and the direction of Jonathan Demme ("Silence of the Lambs") the audience and the family is navigated through the angst without much trauma.
Streep did all her singing and plays the rhythm guitar - something she mastered after months of preparation. (Once again something only an actor of Meryl's professional dedication would take on to make the character better.) The chemistry between Ricki and Greg is real and sweet. Gummer plays the role of the depressed wronged daughter very well often throwing lines into conversations like daggers in a fight. Then standing back with no emotion watching the battle ensue.
I particularly like the role of son Josh's fiancee Emily (Hailey Gates) who plays this primpy bitch who is appalled by the sight of Ricki. Emily looks as if she wants to shrink is disgust every time Ricki is around, She truly sees her as a freak of nature and wishes she would disappear before Ricki ruins her wedding.
Unlike some of the critics who said it didn't quite pull through. I enjoyed the movie. True it wasn't Meryl's best film, but it was heads and tails better than "Hope Springs" and I even thought a tad better than "It's Complicated". She was able to bring an edgy aging voice still having talent, a vulnerable side telling her emotions often with just the countenance of her face or the raising of an eye brow, and pull off the entire movie wearing those God awful boots and that funky hairstyle as only so unbelievably talented Meryl Streep can.
But she had help. Kevin Klein played his role well as the stoic abandoned husband obviously still infatuated with his former wife. Rick Springfield was brilliant as the ever supportive Greg with great lines like (paraphrased) "Where ever we sit will be the cool table", when Ricki learns that the bride has relegated her to the back table with the harpist at the wedding instead of the family table.
It will not garner her an Oscar but it keeps Ms. Streep at the top of the game. Who else can sing and play rhythm guitar as a rock and roller and pull it off with such aplomb while playing her role in a film. It is enjoyable, heart warming, and funny and well worth your 101 minutes. After all don't we go to the movies to be entertained.