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Ricki and the Flash

Ricki and the Flash
Meryl Streep, Rick Springfield, Kevin Kline and Mamie Gummer

Rated: PG-13 for thematic material, brief drug content, sexuality and language.
Reviewed by: Dayra  
Release date: August 7, 2015 Released by: TriStar Pictures

There is a certain appeal in watching rom-com, feel good, family movies. In most cases we get to see other people have problems for a change, the kind of which make ours seem minuscule in comparison. Then we get to enjoy watching all those problems get fixed by any means necessary. In essence, this formula has worked for years now, why change it?

With Ricki and The Flash, we get all of the family feel-good moments with a dose of back-burner romance and a whole lot of rock and roll.

I'm sure it comes to no surprise that Meryl Streep could pull off a late – but still great – rock star playing a few nights a week at a local watering hole with Rick Springfield rocking out by her side. From the very first scene we bear witness to what is probably one of the only real promises Ricki and The Flash made: The music. Meryl Streep, being of sound voice and amazing talent, has graced us with quite a few soundtracks over the past couple of years. Coming down from her role as an evil witch in the movie adaptation of Stephen Sondhelm's Into The Woods, as well as a roll in the YA movie adaptation of The Giver, to a sharp-tongued, quick witted cancer patient in August: Osage County, it's hard to take a step back and not be impressed at the complete transformation Streep made with Ricki.

Streep plays the part of a struggling musician very well, and we see it at its best when Ricki is on stage with her band. The best parts of the movie occurs when the band is on a stage. As a musician who left her husband Pete (Kevin Kline) and her three children Julie (Mamie Gummer), Joshua (Sebastian Stan), and Adam (Ben Platt), behind to follow her dreams of becoming a rock-star, Ricki lives and breathes only for the music. Things quickly change for Ricki when she receives a call from her ex-husband who out of left field, tells her that her daughter's husband has left her for another woman. Believing that her birth mother is the only way to get Julie out of her depression, Pete asks Ricki to return home and support her daughter. So leaving behind a sweet and very smitten lead guitarist, Ricki returns to a family that is less than excited to see her.

This is precisely where the rom-com formula begins to show us the problem is will undoubtedly solve by the end of a full length feature film. While the script for Ricki and The Flash was written by Diablo Cody, it still plays by the same rules as many of the movies who share its genera. Ricki is suddenly put on shaky ground as she tries to reconnect with a family she hasn't been a part of in years. Her reception with each of her children is different and while Julie's silver-tongue and icy demeanor was wildly entertaining to watch, the rest of the cast had much the same role in the film. Hold contempt for Ricki. Toughing it out isn't easy for an emotional runaway, but jealousy is a strong form of determination when Ricki encounters her children's step-mom (Audra McDonald). The emotional conflict leads to Ricki finally giving in and running away, but in typical movie fashion the soul searching moments when Ricki returns to her own home is what eventually rebuilds the proverbial bridges.

Admittedly, one of the greatest draws of this movie had to be Gummer's performance as Julie. Dropped into what is probably the worst moment in her life, Julie becomes bitter and depressed; snapping at anyone who gives her the opening. And there was truly no better opening than the awkward reunion dinner the family had at a high-end, formal restaurant. While her family – sans her birth mom – dressed up in their Sunday's best, Julie rocked a pair of sweatpants, her best bedhead, and fuzzy green slippers. Gummer was tasked with stirring the simmering pot to a boil and she did it flawlessly.

Another honorable mention goes to Ricki's love interest and lead guitarist Greg, played by Rick Springfield. While their relationship began as undefined, for no lack of trying on Greg's part, one of Ricki's soul searching tasks involved allowing someone else to love her. In this Greg was perfect. While his sad sweetheart eyes made many of our hearts break, his backup vocals in Ricki's rocking soundtrack drew out all of our inner screaming fan's. While his character probably deserved more diversity than he got, Springfield made good use of his charm to the very end.

As a whole, Rick and The Flash was more of a drawn out rock concert than anything else. Leading to many of the movies greatest moments actually happening on stage with a bit of story line tossed in between for spice and flair. This was hardly any of the actors' faults as they struggled to give these character's a plausible personalities with a shorter than normal time frame. There is a lot to say in the movie's defense, as the end result did enable a feel-good vibe. With a soundtrack including Springsteen's "My Love Will Not Let You Down" and "Drift Away" as well as "American Girl" it's hard not to leave the theater bobbing your head with a smile. 

  Frank Chris Jim Dave Nina Dayra Howard Jennifer Kathleen  Avg. 
Ricki and the Flash  C      C-         C+         B-   C 

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