Review: ‘Ricki and The Flash’ Is an Ambiguous Hodgepodge

I’m sure the premise for Ricki and the Flash made a lot of sense to a lot of people. You have a mother who abandons her husband and kids to pursue her rock and roll fantasy, only to come home to a family in turmoil. Throw in a couple of family meltdowns and redemption moments and presto! You’ve got a great story. However, often what was envisioned and what we end up with can be two different things.

Writer Diablo Cody and Director Johnathan Demme assemble what amounts to be a box of spare parts. And the parts are plentiful; they almost have the makings of something that resemble layered characters, but the result is, ultimately, a very disappointing movie.

The role of Ricki Rendazzo, on the surface, must have looked like an amazing opportunity for Meryl Streep to showcase her talents. But one can only do so much with a role that was written inconsistently, and forces Streep to wear hideous fake braids that are reminiscent of Ewan Mcgregor in The Phantom Menace. Streep is, without question, one of the most gifted of all actresses, and she is believable in just about anything she does on screen. However, even Streep has limitations; she can’t pull this one off.

Decades after ditching her family to attempt to make it big in Los Angeles, Ricki gets a call from her ex-husband Pete (Kevin Kilne) to return to the Midwest to visit their daughter Julie (Mamie Gummer – her real life daughter), who’s suicidal after being abandoned by her husband. This allows Ricki to catch up with her sons: Adam (Nick Westrate) who’s gay and loathes his mother and Josh (Sebastian Stan of Captain America: The Winter Soldier) who’s about to be married and doesn’t want his mother to attend the wedding. Oh, did I mention that at that moment in the film, for no apparent reason, we learn that Ricki is this ultra-conservative? Yep, makes a ton of sense to me too.

This movie appears to be one where the main character is supposed to transform from being bitter/broken to being adored by everyone. Diablo Cody manages to take a very formulaic plot and turn the film into a mystifying collection of pretense. Instead of adoring Ricki toward the end of film, I found myself hyper-focused on just how selfish her character was. Casting Meryl Streep as a hard-on-her-luck rocker makes as much sense as hiring me to be a spokesperson for hair products.

Diablo Cody seems so focused on fitting in all these loose ideas into the plot that she masks the obvious holes in the script by having these long musical interludes of Ricki (Meryl Streep) and her boyfriend ( Rick Springfield) rocking out. At first you think, “wow  … Streep is good,” but after seeing it a dozen times you are thinking, “Okay… I get it… she can sing.” Under normal circumstances I would probably write that the repetitious nature of the musical numbers took away from the plot but that of course would mean that Ricki and the Flash had some sort discernible plot.

Ricki and the Flash is a band not worth listening to.

Ricki and the Flash

Dewey Singleton - Film Critic
Dewey Singleton - Film Critic
I'm a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association and have been doing reviews for many years. My views on film are often heard in markets such as Atlanta, Houston, and satellite radio. My wife often tolerates my obsession for all things film related and two sons are at an age now where 'Trolls' is way cooler than dad. Follow me on twitter @mrsingleton.

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