Ricki and the Flash is supposed to be a film about “follow your dreams and all will be forgiven,” even if that means give up a very wealthy suburban life (and your children) in Indiana to become a biker-mama rocker chick in Los Angeles.
As a concept, this might be so. But Ricki and the Flash is an embarrassing white-wash of what it’s like to work as a cashier at a grocery store, while letting a life of leisure get away from you — all because you can’t get enough Tom Petty, Mick Jagger and Roger Daltry.
None of this adds up. On top of that, the script, written by Diablo Cody, is so over-loaded with passive-aggressive portent, that you can’t help but moan in agony.
Every line in this film is played for its ultimate heavy meaning. One almost expects one of those soap opera organists to lean on some massively dramatic chords after every line.
Just take this one scene as a warning: After being summoned from the bar scene in Los Angeles to reconnect with a depressed daughter in a mega-wealthy neighborhood somewhere in Indiana, Linda, aka Ricki, played by Streep, gets a little of the flirt on with her ex, a wealthy businessman named Pete, played by Kevin Kline.
After this flirty evening, Linda / Ricki wakes to find Pete’s second wife, Maureen, played by Audra McDonald, has arrived on the scene, back from visiting her ailing father. If you don’t understand this is awkward, the script hammers it home. Maureen, first off, is the precise opposite of Linda / Ricki. She is also younger, prettier, alert and smart, whereas Streep plays Linda / Ricki as a woman who smokes pot, wakes late and hasn’t much smarts.. She thinks ALS, the ailment that Maureen’s father has, is an acronym for Alzheimer’s disease. And, we are told, she voted for George Bush — twice.
So, Linda / Ricki wakes up and goes to the kitchen where Maureen is making French toast and director Demme plays this scene this way: It is revealed that smiling, perky Maureen makes famously great French toast, so Linda / Ricki is angry and makes a rude comment. But, it turns out, Maureen has never been very good at making bacon, so Linda / Ricki is now greatly relieved, perks up an says something engaging and sweet. Then we find out that Maureen makes a great cup of coffee. So, Linda / Ricki is now angry again.
Thank god, we never find out if Marueen is any good at making waffles. In the meantime, Streep looks good in heavy makeup and a retro-punk hair styling, but she is still jowly and strangely lacking in charisma in this role. Face it, she was great at other things, but charisma, for Streep, is an afterthought.
In so many words, she looks like a granny playing an estranged mom. This would have been a great role for Cher something like 20 years ago, if it were played for laughs.
Since they went for drama, instead, this film is sorely missing any reference to addiction. Ricki is a hard-rocker, who has a drink now and again — but in real life a woman who abandons her children to become a rocker in L.A. is masking serious addictions to drugs and alcohol. That would have made this movie real. But the issue here is completely absent from the equation.
There’s some great rock ‘n roll in the film played by Ricki and the Flash, but it’s all cover tunes and name dropping. All added up, it comes across as Mott the Hoople meets the Partridge Family — which might be rock ‘n roll’s worst nightmare.