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Ricky (Meryl Streep) performs at the Salt Well in TriStar Pictures' RICKI AND THE FLASH.

Review: Ricki and the Flash

Ros Hull

A musician who gave up everything for her dream of rock-and-roll stardom returns home, looking to make things right with her family. imdb

 Further proof that Meryl Streep is a goddess and can do any damned thing she puts her mind to, including let her bulgy bits (not that there are many) protrude from rock ‘n’ roll skinny jeans and learn to play electric guitar for this role. And sing while playing it. Live.

This movie is the best thing Diablo Cody has written since United States of Tara, and the first feature film Jonathon Demme has directed in some time.

But neither of them have had the ‘long time between drinks’ that Rick Springfield has had. I had the biggest crush on him as a rock hero back in the day! The lanky, loose- legged stance, the awesome guitar licks, cool vocals and those eyes…

Readers of (ahem) a certain age will have danced to his hit Jessie’s Girl – or even Speak to the Sky (I won’t judge) but his steadiest work in the US has been as an actor. A long stint on General Hospital and guest roles in a list of shows have provided fairly steady work but not stardom. Now he is in this film and season 2 of True Detective – so maybe this year is his year? He certainly delivers as the guitarist in Ricki’s band (The Flash) who loves her but can’t break through her shell. Understated but perfectly on note, he brings even more heart and humour to an already rich blend…and the Fender he plays is his own and is the one he wrote Jessie’s Girl on.

Yes folks, I enjoyed every minute of this movie – I laughed out loud, I cringed and I even had a quiet sniff. It’s not getting fabulous press and I have to wonder if that is because the story is about a deadbeat mum instead of a deadbeat dad?

We’ve had lots of stories about men who leave their families for a myriad of different reasons, reconnect much later and somehow all is forgiven and they live happily ever after. Even real life stories – Jimmy Barnes and David Campbell anyone? However mums are not meant to leave, we are hardwired to nest and nurture. That Ricki walked away for her music is somehow shocking but that her children finally, maybe, forgive her seems more so. My dear friend I saw this with cried for the final ten minutes, having roared with laughter, as I did, before that. However, a few hours later she was pulling the film to bits for being unreal and unbelievable. She is right, it isn’t real life, but ladies I do believe we need to give ourselves a break. Don’t judge her, just enjoy her journey.

I found Meryl Streep’s twitchy, tightly strung portrayal of Ricki fascinating and quite relatable. Ricki didn’t make it but she tried. She isn’t a star but she is playing music every day.

Kevin Kline, as her former husband, is effective. He is not a strong man, giving in to the wishes of his current wife, who has raised his children. However he gives his role an elegance and sympathy that could easily have escaped a lesser actor. Audra McDonald, arguably the most successful African American Broadway singer of her generation does not sing one note as the step mother but wow, she makes her limited screen time count.

However, with all these acting riches there is one that stands out even more – Mamie Gummer. If you were the look-alike daughter of the most awarded screen actress alive, would you go into the same business? Talk about loving a challenge. Mamie is chiseling out her own career quite successfully but you may not have noticed her yet. Believe me, after she storms down the stairs and verbally pounds her mother in this film – you won’t forget her!

Ros Hull

Ros saw Star Wars and immediately wanted to fly the Millenium Falcon. Unable to do that she became a Jill-of-all-trades as her army husband whirled her around the world – and back to Canberra 10 years ago. She has worked in public programs and museum education ever since. She gained an MA in writing whilst getting two daughters through high school - both are now at university and undeniably fabulous (according to her). She can worry as an Olympic sport so she sees lots of movies instead. More about the Author

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