Ricki and the Flash
dir Jonathan Demme
scr Diablo Cody
prd Mason Novick, Marc Platt
with Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline, Rick Springfield, Mamie Gummer, Sebastian Stan, Nick Westrate, Audra McDonald, Ben Platt, Hailey Gates, Charlotte Rae, Joe Vitale, Rick Rosas
release US 7.Aug.15, UK 4.Sep.15
15/US TriStar 1h45
Ricki and the Flash
Rock on: Springfield and Streep

kline gummer stan
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Ricki and the Flash There isn't much to this comedy-drama, aside from an astutely written exploration of the messy emotional ties that bind families together. But when the leading player is Meryl Streep as an ageing rocker, that's more than enough. Stir in Streep's real-life daughter Gummer and a 30-years-later reunion with Sophie's Choice costar Kline, and the film is downright irresistible.

After leaving her family for fame in California, Ricki (Streep) never quite made it. She's now playing to a lively crowd in a suburban Los Angeles bar with her band The Flash, including her tentative boyfriend Greg (Springfield). Then her ex-husband Pete (Kline) asks for help with their daughter Julie (Gummer), who has fallen into a deep depression after her marriage broke up. So Ricki heads to Indianapolis, and as she cheers Julie up, she has pointed encounters with her gay son Adam (Westrate), her soon-to-be-married son Joshua (Stan) and Pete's second wife Maureen (McDonald).

Streep is clearly having a lot of fun with the role, and director Demme indulges her with far too many songs. Just when something interesting is about to happen, the film cuts to another musical number, usually as Ricki covers a timeless rock classic that comments on whatever is happening in her story. These songs are enjoyable and revealing, but stall the narrative momentum by eliminating scenes in which the characters grapple with each other. So the film never digs too deeply into the otherwise resonant themes.

Even so, Cody's script is packed with terrifically barbed dialog that continually cuts through the characters' resistance to expressing their true feelings. There are also some proper explosions of emotion, each of which is beautifully played by a cast that's in touch with their characters' inner lives. Streep rekindles her terrific chemistry with Kline and reveals a relaxed honesty with Gummer. And her clash with McDonald has an enjoyable bite. Her scenes with Springfield are trickier, feeling more honest on-stage than in a private conversation.

But one of the script's points is that love and loyalty don't necessarily emerge where we think they will. One of the strongest comments is about how parents have no choice but to love their kids, but children do choose. And the film also quietly says a lot about the high cost of pursuing our dreams, the difficulty of healing old wounds and the fact that much of life is impossible to predict, no matter how hard we try to plan everything out.

cert 12 themes, language, sexuality 21.Jul.15

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