Kyle J. Steenblik

Ricki and the Flash Hit Some High Notes With a Phenomenal Cast

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4 stars out of 5Ricki and the Flash
Directed by: Jonathan Demme
Written by: Diablo Cody
ricki_and_the_flash_xlgStarring: Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline, Mamie Gummer, Audra McDonald, Sebastian Stan, Rick Springfield
Running time 101 minutes
Rated PG 13 for thematic material, brief drug content, sexuality and language

Ricki and the Flash is a significant comedy with a serious dark streak from an Academy Award winning director, screenwriter, and cast, with nuanced story and complexly flawed characters.  By the end of the film I wanted desperately to return to the beginning to reexamine what I just saw, the story evolved as the film progressed from a simple estranged parent-child reunion, to a much more substantial story I am still processing.  If the terrific performances, steady directing, and clever writing were not enough, the film was also filled with a great soundtrack performed by Ricki and the Flash, the band fronted by Meryl Streep and Rick Springfield.  Yes, Meryl Streep learned to play guitar, and performed every song in the film with the band, lending a refreshingly authentic feel to the music, and her character.  One of my pet peeves when it comes to film and television is when it is obvious the person playing a musical instrument is not actually playing, or has not been taught how to play it on screen.  I find it jarring, and it takes me out of the story because it shows lazy filmmaking on the part of the director and performer.  Aside from the music, which was well performed but arguably detrimentally overabundant, the acting was fantastic.  Superb acting from Streep and Kevin Kline is not particularly newsworthy, there is a reason they both have academy awards on their shelves, but it should be noted that they presented characters rich with history, both relatable and fallible.  The real gem in this film is Mamie Gummer who played one of the more profoundly volatile characters in the film, and consequently is the keystone giving the entire film structure.

Three-time Academy Award® winner Meryl Streep goes electric and takes on a whole new gig – a hard-rocking singer/guitarist – for Oscar®-winning director Jonathan Demme and Academy Award®-winning screenwriter Diablo Cody in the uplifting comedy Ricki and the Flash. In a film loaded with music and live performance, Streep stars as Ricki, a guitar heroine who gave up everything for her dream of rock-and-roll stardom, but is now returning home to make things right with her family. Streep stars opposite her real-life daughter Mamie Gummer, who plays her fictional daughter; Rick Springfield, who takes on the role of a Flash member in love with Ricki; and Kevin Kline, who portrays Ricki’s long-suffering ex-husband. Courtesy Sony Pictures Entertainment

If I had to register a single complaint about this film, it is the musical numbers feel a little excessive, do not get me wrong, they are well done, but more than once I am sure, they included a performance simply to highlight the hard work Streep did in preparing for the role.  I can understand that, she reportedly spent months learning to play the guitar, and with a band.  It is a relatively minor complaint, especially given the songs, but it did stall the momentum of the film from time to time.  Fortunately, any lost momentum is quickly regained and used to good effect, often delivering a jarring emotional punch.  In the end this film was more than light entertainment, while it was very funny in parts, it held a very dark and profound streak that drove some very strong themes home.

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