Ricki and the Flash

“I was gonna start this with something along the lines of “”I will see Meryl Streep in anything””, but then I realized I didn’t bother to see her in The Homesman last year. So I’ll revise that statement to “”I will see Meryl Streep in anything she leads or at least has a large featured role””. Because really, if you see a Meryl Streep movie that only has a little bit of Meryl Streep, all the non-Meryl minutes are going to pale in comparison to the few Meryl minutes, and that’s just not fair. But Meryl in a leading role? You bet I’m gonna see it. And here we even get two Streeps for the price of one (or no price in my case, since I attended a free advance screening), as she costars with IRL daughter Mamie Gummer.

Mama Streep plays the title character, a struggling Californian rock star with a lot of baggage. Included in that baggage is her failed marriage (to Kevin Kline’s straightlaced Pete) and the three children she left behind in the midwest. A desperate Pete calls up Ricki to inform her that their daughter Julie (baby Streep) has been in a worrisome depression since her shortlived marriage quickly imploded (Incidentally, it’s worth noting that IRL Mamie had a quickly dissolved year and a half marriage to Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter Benjamin Walker). Ricki makes the trip out to the midwest (it was one of the I-states; forgot which) to try and care for her daughter and is greeted with mixed response. And that’s as far as I’ll go recapping because I don’t want to replay the entire plot. Where’s the fun in that?

Before I start gushing on the cast (Streeps and other), I first need to give a shout out to screenwriter Diablo Cody (Oscar winning Juno scribe) who penned this screenplay. Say what you will about some of her less successful films, but this lady knows how to write, and here we have a wonderful showcase of that talent. The interesting storyline proceeds at a proper pace and structure, characters are fully realized, and best of all, so many clever one liners peppered throughout. Those smart jokes are part of what made Juno so memorable, and they are what I love most about Cody’s work. We’re talking Joss Whedon caliber words here. And then they’re made even better when spoken by such a truly truly top notch cast.

And oh that cast. Every time I write up a Meryl Streep movie, I gush and gush and gush about her. I’ll try to keep that brief this time, because we know she was incredible yet again. What struck me most, however, wasn’t her rocker chic vibe (that I absolutely loved) but the vulnerability we saw in her, starkly contrasting that tough cookie punk rock exterior. Word on the street (by which I mean I read it in an article somewhere) is that Mama Streep handed Baby Streep the script and walked away, without so much as a discussion. You may cry nepotism, but I call brilliance! The first time we see the two of them on screen together, Baby Streep goes totally bat poop insane on her mother, giving a crazed rant that only a daughter could give. I’m sure any other actress, no matter her caliber, would have had some trepidation about laying into such an intimidatingly good actress.

And speaking of actresses who can match Meryl’s might on screen, in comes Tony history making Audra McDonald as Pete’s second wife, Maureen. After seeing the film, I posted something on Facebook aimed at my theatre friends, letting them know that those two ladies essentially have a diva off in one powerful scene in the film. It rapidly got many likes. It is a little bit of a bummer that a film for which music is an important part doesn’t utilize the vocal chops of a Broadway legend, it wouldn’t have actually made any sense to try and shoehorn that in.

However, there was one supporting cast member whose musical talents were utilized, and that would be Rick Springfield as Ricki’s boyfriend and Flash lieutenant. Me, I always get Rick Springfield and Bruce Springsteen confused. But judging by the whoops in the audience when he first appeared, I don’t think that’s a problem for other people. What impressed me was the palpable chemistry he had with Meryl. Chemistry is not something I typically pay attention to, but when it’s this strong, I can’t help but get swept up in it.

Anyhoo, I found this to be very much a win, if for no other reason than I didn’t realize my life wasn’t complete until I saw Meryl Streep singing Bad Romance. But really, there’s far more to love than just those quick ninety seconds.

Ricki and the Flash – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/”

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