MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
Directed by Jonathan Demme. Starring Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline.
In the parable of the prodigal son, an adult child leaves the family for the far country, comes to himself, repents, and returns home, to find his father running towards him with open arms. In Ricki and the Flash a mother abandons her husband and children to go to California, following her rock and roll heart. Years later a family crisis initiates her return to Indiana and she finds her children running away from her. Obviously, a lot has to change if things are going to work out.
Meryl Streep plays Ricki Rendazzo, the lead singer for Ricki and the Flash, a house band at The Salt Well, a bar in Tarzana. When Ricki first headed out west, a promising life as a rock star beckoned and her band recorded one CD. Now they play cover versions of favorite songs from the 70s and 80s (with a little Lady Gaga and Pink thrown in for the younger patrons) and the 20 or so regulars just love to listen and dance to the music. Greg (Rick Springfield), the lead guitarist and boyfriend, carries a torch for Ricki but she just can’t seem to be able to commit.
This becomes even clearer when Ricki returns home. Her real name is actually Linda Brummell and all three of her adult children carry big-time abandonment issues with her. Her daughter Julie (played by Streep’s actress daughter Mamie Gummer) bears the heaviest load, but her two sons Adam (Nick Westrate) and Josh (Sebastian Stan) are also dealing with difficult problems.
Let it be said that redemption and reconciliation finally do arrive, but much quicker than you might imagine. Early scenes with Ricki and Julie are so dark, I was surprised how nimbly their problems were solved. As the story continues, transformation quickly becomes a consistent plot device. Characters make 180 degree turns faster than an upended iPhone.
And don’t get me started on the ending of the picture, a cheesy and corny coda to this “geezer pleaser”. If you are of a certain age (aging baby boomer looking for comfort food), Ricki and the Flash is enjoyable enough. But, truth be told, most baby boomers went to films in the 70s and 80s that were more challenging and original (including early films by Director Jonathan Demme).
Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline and Mamie Gummer all bring their A game to the material, so it’s fun to see this talented cast try to spin gold out of straw. But the screenplay by Diablo Cody is not able to help them very much. Where is Rumpelstiltskin when you need him?
Three halos: An easy-going comedy-drama that is probably a little bit too easy-going.
Two pitchforks: Recreational alcohol and marijuana use; some mean-spirited and crude comments; PG-13 level swearing.
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Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
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