Ricki and the Flash  (2015)    59/100

Rating :   59/100                                                                     101 Min        12A

Featuring Academy Award titaness Meryl Streep as fictional musician ‘Ricki’ Rendazzo (although screenwriter Diablo Cody was apparently inspired to create the film, not the character traits, by her mother-in-law Terry Cieri and her New Jersey band ‘Silk and Steel’), frontwoman and guitarist of her band The Flash, and detailing a tumultuous reunion with her estranged family after her daughter, Julie (played by Streep’s own daughter Mamie Gummer), enters a painful divorce and attempts to take her own life. Kevin Kline plays the ex-husband, with musician/actor Rick Springfield as Ricki’s current beau and lead guitarist of The Flash.

Director Jonathan Demme (‘The Silence of the Lambs’ 91, ‘Rachel Getting Married’ 08) initially creates an intimate drama but it all starts to slip away from him as time goes on, veering dangerously close to becoming a cheesy pastiche of middle-class soap opera vignettes – one of Ricki’s sons is gay and she doesn’t get it, her ex has married a black woman (there’s suggestion Ricki is racist as a result) and he keeps a stash of weed in the freezer (Ricki finds it in a second), and of course the cliché of the failed suicide attempt; there’s a blasé approach to everything, all with paper-thin treatments and Ricki as a down and out ‘rebel’ not welcomed by anyone but who’s musical talent will be offered as some kind of recompense for not bothering to be a mother for decades.

The music, however, is really good, with Streep’s vocals immediately evoking Stevie Nicks and working far better here than they did for her Oscar nominated turn in ‘Into the Woods‘ (Streep also spent a dedicated several months learning to play guitar, even receiving some tuition from Demme’s pal Neil Young no less), and indeed the performances all round are what partially redeem the film from its frequently transparent and hollow writing.

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