Please note, this article is my own and was first published on Re:Views Magazine; view original publication here.
I have incredibly mixed views about this film. Is there anything special about the storyline? Not at all. In fact, it’s made up almost entirely of tired clichés: predictable to its very core. Basically, it’s the story of an estranged mother who tries to reconnect with her children after abandoning them to become a rock star. Insert eye roll here.
The only thing that makes this film interesting is the fact that the aging rock star is played by none other than three-time Academy Award winner Meryl Streep. Ricki Rendazzo (formerly Linda Brummel) is broke, disconnected, and dresses almost exclusively in black—complete with heavy eyeliner, numerous ear piercings and edgy braids. But when her ex-husband Pete contacts her about their daughter Julie’s crumbling marriage, Ricki is forced to confront her family, her present, and her numerous past mistakes. It’s worth nothing that Streep’s actual daughter, Mamie Gummer, plays Streep’s fictional daughter in the film. To be perfectly honest, Mamie Gummer is the best thing about this film. She’s sassy, a smartass, an emotional wreck and says it like it is regardless of the consequences; it’s like looking in a mirror.
Slowly Ricki and Julie begin to bond (predictable). The rest of the family? Not so easy to tame (also predictable). Ricki has two sons, Josh and Adam. One reveals himself to be a homosexual to his long-lost mother, and the other is set to get married. But here’s the kicker: no one wants Ricki there at the wedding, least of all Ricki’s daughter-in-law-to-be. Ah, family drama. Eventually, of course, Ricki attends the wedding and makes things better through the thing she left her family for in the first place: music. Not that playing a few heartfelt songs at one’s wedding could make up for years of neglect, but okay. It’s a nice first attempt.
On the bright side, they do make some pretty good music—and Meryl Streep is actually singing and actually playing the guitar. Kudos. Not that we’d expect any less, especially considering Ricki’s new love interest, guitarist Greg, is actually played renowned Australian musician Rick Springfield. From classic rock, to a pretty badass rendition of Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance”, it works—though at times I did feel like the film was more music than movie. It is pretty sweet, though when Greg sells his very expensive guitar so Ricki can afford to go to her son’s wedding.
I was pleased to see issues like mental health and homosexuality explored, though I felt the film trivialised these topics frequently. For instance, Julie—after discovering her husband had been cheating on her— attempts to commit suicide. Subsequently, she is put onto medication and into therapy. Now here’s the part that makes my blood boil. Julie’s father Pete—Ricki’s ex-husband—actually cracks jokes about this. He cracks jokes about suicide. In case it wasn’t obvious, I’ll spell it out for you: DO NOT CRACK JOKES ABOUT SUICIDE! YOU DO NOT TREAT PEOPLE LIKE THAT! MAKING LIGHT OF THE SITUATION DOES NOT HELP, YOU IGNORANT ASSHOLE!
This same character also proves himself to be a misogynist; he tells Ricki “you can’t have two dreams”. Basically, he’s saying if you want to be a mother, you can’t have a career. But it’s all well and good for him to go out and play businessman. Did we suddenly revert back to the stone ages with this awful character?
To say I’m disappointed in Ricki and the Flash is an understatement. My grandmother did thoroughly enjoy the film—though she probably doesn’t analyse the film from a philosophy student’s point of view. This film has so far only grossed $35.9 million at the box office, with a budget of $18 million. Meryl Streep, the music, and her daughter are the only redeeming factors of this film. I almost want to ask for my money back. Damn you, irresistible Meryl Streep!