After a “cool” mum in It’s Complicated, and a “stuffy” housewife in Hope Springs, Meryl Streep is back as an ageing rocker mum in Ricki And The Flash. Playing opposite her real daughter Mamie Gummer, Streep shows us not only that she can still sing as well as she could in Mamma Mia, but also, once again, that she’s not afraid of playing someone who doesn’t fit the mould.
Ricki (Meryl Streep), is a singer with her band The Flash. They perform in a bar every night, playing classics and modern favourites alike. Her lead guitarist, Greg (Rick Springfield), is desperately trying to get her to commit to him, but Ricki is holding a lot back. When her ex-husband Pete (Kevin Kline) calls her one day, telling her he needs her help with their daughter Julie (Mamie Gummer), Ricki scrapes together the cash for the plane ride.
Once in Indianapolis, Ricki shows up at Pete’s house, which he shares with his second wife Maureen (Audra MacDonald). Julie is haunting her room as her husband is divorcing her in order to date another woman. Completely lost, depressed and angry, Julie is antagonising her mother, blaming her for leaving them when she was little.
Bit by bit though, it becomes clear that there are always two sides to a story, and that Ricki may not be the only one to blame, nor is she responsible for wanting more out of her life. Learning to smooth things over with Pete, Julie and her two sons Josh and Adam, Ricki starts to open up to Greg as well.
The movie was a lot better than what I’d expected based on the trailer: it’s a coming-of-age movie mixed with your average dysfunctional family sorts out its problems plot. Except it’s also feminist and manages to be old fashioned and modern simultaneously.
Mamie Gummer spends the first half of the movie in the same clothes, unwashed and unkempt, with no make-up and hair so greasy it sticks up by itself. But that’s ok, because she’s just been dumped by the man she hoped to spend her life with and while we women might be strong, we’re still hurting.
Ricki is also constantly accused of having left her children in order to have a go at being a rock star. But what’s so wrong with that? Yes, back in the 80s career women were just starting to emerge as a major work force (think Baby Boom‘s Diane Keaton), but most of them chose jobs that would allow them to come home at night. Yet Ricki wanted more out of her life.
Nowadays, while this might still be difficult to accept, it would also appear relatively normal. Think of all the women in the Army, those with jobs that send them round the world, all the women who reached out to a nanny instead of dropping their job the minute they were pregnant. Going for your dreams despite your limitations is seen as a sign of strength and courage, not a flaw. And while it might seem harsh to abandon your family in order to follow your dreams, why could the family not followyou as well?
Streep is outstanding, wearing tight outfits and bold make-up no matter the occasion, and actually learnt to play the guitar for the movie (which explains while she’s not the lead guitarist, but only the rhythm one), and all the songs are performed live. In case you hadn’t recognised the name at first, Rick Springfield is actually a former 80s heartthrob whom you might recognise from his appearance in 13 Going On 30: yes, it’s THAT guy. Kline plays the stuffy, nouveau-rich suburban husband to perfection and Gummer does her mother proud by putting all her energy into making her character as believable as possible, flaws and all.
The soundtrack is also catchy, especially if you’re a fan of 80s and 90s classic rock. A definite must-see!
Pictures from: telegraph.co.uk, shockya.com, contactmusic.com, dailymail.com.uk, haydnkino.at, comingsoon.net, independent.co.uk