JEANNE'S REVIEW

 

Meryl Streep stars with real-life daughter Mamie Gummer in this latest offering by Oscar-winning director Jonathan Demme ("The Silence of the Lambs", 1991) and Oscar-winning screenwriter Diablo Cody ("Juno", 2007).

 

"Ricki and the Flash" affords Streep the opportunity to showcase her impressive singing abilities in her portrayal of ageing singer/guitarist, Ricki Rendazzo.

 

Ricki is a hard-working, hard-drinking rock and roller. She and her band, The Flash, have been playing at the same bar in L.A. for years. But to attempt to achieve her dream of rock 'n' roll stardom years earlier, Ricki gave up her life as wife to Pete (Kevin Kline) and mother to Julie (Gummer), Josh (Sebastian Stan) and Adam (Nick Westrate). Now Julie is reeling from an impending divorce and Ricki is forced to return to Indianapolis to aid in her daughter's recovery.

 

Cody's script is less than imaginative, and hardly worth the effort. Whereas "Juno" and a few of her other successes were fresh, insightful and amusing, "Ricki and the Flash" is, like so many others this summer, predictable.

 

Ricki returns to the Midwest. Pete's wife Maureen (Audra McDonald) is conveniently out of town, so Pete and Ricki can smoke dope and reminisce --- almost leading to a kiss --- oh my! Ricki's sons resent and are embarrassed by her. And, of course, there's the big showdown between Ricki and Maureen over Julie, and who is best able to care for her.

 

These lame screenplays are so very tiresome. I realize not every Streep performance can lead to an Oscar nomination, but we have kind of come to expect it. Trust me, she won't be getting a nod for this disappointment.

 

It's definitely not Streep's fault, nor the rest of the cast's. It's merely the result of a poorly conceived script and underwhelming direction --- so blame Cody and Demme.

 

Rick Springfield gives a nice performance as Greg, Ricki's fellow band member, and the guy who really loves her. He's strong in this role, but doesn't overplay the part --- and those beautiful eyes are still mesmerizing.

 

But there again the writing is rather juvenile and shallow. This guy has been lusting after Ricki for years, and amazingly --- overnight --- she finally gets it? There were times in "Ricki and the Flash" when I truly wanted to scream at the screen.

 

I was recently away for an extended weekend with my faithful group of sorority sisters. All they wanted to know was whether or not I liked "Ricki and the Flash". I couldn't lie nor could I disappoint them. I told them what I'm telling you --- if you must go, because you are a huge Meryl Streep fan --- then go. See it with your girlfriends, and leave your husbands at home.

 

Opinion: Wait For DVD

 

DAVID'S REVIEW

 

Five years ago Gwyneth Paltrow starred in a bad movie which allowed her to showcase her musical talents around a convoluted story. If you're lucky, you will have forgotten "Country Strong".

 

Now there's a similar film with Meryl Streep, co-starring her real-life daughter Mamie Gummer, her old partner from "Sophie's Choice", Kevin Kline,  and veteran rocker Rick Springfield. It's called "Ricki and the Flash", and like "Strong", it allows Streep to strut her considerable singing and guitar playing, sandwiched around a fluff piece of a story about her non-existent relationship with her children back in Indiana.

 

We have the hit-and-miss Diablo Cody ("Juno", "Young Adult") to thank for this less-than-compelling tale of Ricki/Linda (Streep), divorced wife of Pete (Kline), and estranged mother of Joshua (Sebastian Stan), Adam (Nick Westrate) and Julie (Gummer). Ricki is living in Tarzana, California, performing at night in a dive bar populated mostly by over-the-hill hippies, and working by day as a cashier in a grocery store. When Pete calls her to his expansive mansion in Indianapolis, it's because Julie has been dumped by her husband, and is morose and depressed.

 

Pete's new wife, Maureen (Broadway star Audra McDonald) is away in Seattle looking after her ailing father, so it gives Ricki and Pete a chance to reminisce a bit, and Ricki a chance to re-connect with her daughter. At one point, Pete arranges for a family dinner, including Joshua's fiancee, Emily (Hailey Gates), at a restaurant where the tables are all close to one another. This foolish plot point allows neighboring diners to gawk at the six family members as they hurl insults and shout at each other. It's the epitome of dysfunctional, and it's almost amusing to see the extras in the scene overact. But for sure, we simply don't like these people.

 

"Ricki and the Flash" proceeds to treat subjects like suicide, matrimony, gay relationships, friendship, parental love and families in turmoil in the most superficial manner imaginable. However, as long as we're being inconsequential, Pete's snow white standard poodle is a delight, and should have had a more prominent role.

 

Streep is fine, she's just being her usual self on screen. We knew she could sing from her turn in "Mama Mia", and she practiced intensely to learn the rhythm guitar. She looks like she's having a terrific time on stage. She pairs well with Springfield while they're blasting out songs by famous artists like Bruce Springsteen or Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Their off-stage romance is far less interesting.

 

Rather than go into any further depth about the lack luster storyline, the band and its little-known members are where it's at. Joe Vitale plays the band's drummer --- he was the original drummer for Crosby, Stills & Nash.

Bernie Worrell, a member of the Rock 'N Roll Hall of Fame, is on keyboard.

And Rick Rosas plays bass, formerly with legends like Johnny Rivers, Jerry Lee Lewis and Neil Young.

 

Director Jonathan Demme has some critically acclaimed hits on his resume, including "The Silence of the Lambs", for which he won an Oscar, and "Philadelphia". But this movie is not one of them. There is no question that the extended screen time allotted to Ricki and the Flash is the only reason to watch "Ricki and the Flash".

 

Opinion: Wait for DVD