Meryl Streep Rocks Out in “Ricki & the Flash”
By Skip Sheffield
Meryl Streep has finally met a role even the most talented actress of our generation cannot pull off.
Streep is the title character of “Ricki & The Flash.” Ricki Randazzo, whose real name is Linda Brummel, is a grocery store cashier by day and front person for a classic rock band called The Flash” by night, hence “Ricki & The Flash.” The group plays at a bar called The Salt Well, in Tarzana, California. Ricki & The Flash” have been the “house band” since 2008. A musician can only go so far playing cover songs by more successful people. Ricki is in a rut. She is no longer young. She is broke and has filed for bankruptcy. Ricki abandoned her family to pursue this dubious career, and her kids are understandably resentful.
The script is by Diablo Cody, who showed such promise with “Juno.” Jonathan Demme, an Academy Award-winner for “Silence of the Lambs,” is the director. Despite an A-list cast that includes Streep’s real-life daughter Mamie Gummer as her movie daughter Julie; real-life rock star Rick Springfield as Ricki’s lovelorn band mate Greg, Kevin Kline as Ricki’s befuddled ex-husband Pete Brummel and Broadway star Audra McDonald as Pete’s new wife Maureen, the story just does not ring true. The plot turns when Pete calls Ricki, or Linda as he still calls her, to come back to Indianapolis to comfort their daughter Julie (Mamie Gummer), whose husband has just abandoned her.
Julie looks and acts a mess. It’s up to her estranged mother to set her straight again. “Ricki & The Flash” is an uneasy mix of comedy and drama, with a lot of music and a little romance thrown in. Streep learned how to play guitar for the role. This is no easy task, yet she looks like she has been playing all her life. Springfield needs no instruction on how to look and act like a guitar hero.
Meryl Streep has been nominated for Academy Awards an astonishing 19 times. She has won three Oscars. Nevertheless even an actress as great as Streep can have a misstep. This is one of them.