Thursday 29 September 2016

Ricki and the Flash review: 'It's brilliant and not just because of Meryl Streep'

Tanya Sweeney

Published 04/09/2015 | 07:51

Two of a kind: Mamie Gummer stars with her real-life mother, Meryl Streep in 'Ricki and the Flash'
Two of a kind: Mamie Gummer stars with her real-life mother, Meryl Streep in 'Ricki and the Flash'

Meryl Streep’s many award nods have been divided into two categories: ‘well deserved’ and ‘just because it’s Meryl’.

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Streep holds such an exalted place in Hollywood that accolades are pretty much a foregone conclusion. The truth is, Streep rarely gets it wrong.

She’s not the only horsepower propelling this film, either: director Jonathan Demme (Rachel Getting Married, Silence of the Lambs) is one of the industry’s genuine greats, able to move between stylish thriller and hyper-real arthouse with each passing project.

Diablo Cody, Oscar-winning writer of Juno, a woman with many a wisecrack up her sleeve, is also on board.

Here, Streep plays Ricki Rendazzo, who decided to abandon her life as a suburban soccer mom to follow her real dream of becoming a musician. The plan sort of worked: Ricki has a small smattering of devoted fans, but real fame has thus remained at large.

Her life is pottering along fine until her ex-husband Pete (Kevin Kline) calls to tell her that their daughter Julie (Gummer) has broken up with her husband. Leaving behind her bandmate and lover Greg (Rick Springfield) in sunny California, Ricki heads back to Indianapolis to reunite with her estranged family. Perhaps not surprisingly, she receives a cold front from Julie and her sons Adam (Nick Westrate) and Josh (Sebastian Stan), who have all moved on just fine. All in all, the makings of a richly observed family drama.

Despite Cody’s rather firm script, which has plenty of finely observed moments, the action drops off-piste every so often. Julie’s woes are sort of left hanging in mid-air as Ricki turns her attention to Greg. Still, Streep’s physicality is always something to behold, whether she’s playing a sangfroid editor in The Devil Wears Prada or a Southern matriarch in August: Osage County.

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Here, Streep channels the swagger of Bruce Springsteen and the fragility of Dusty Springfield. Predictably, it’s impressive… but Gummer, exacting her own neat balance of vulnerability and world-weariness, also proves herself one to watch.

Director Demme complements Cody’s rich script with plenty of subtlety (even when the schmaltzy moments start coming down the pipe, Demme undercuts them with effortless simplicity).

Ricki & The Flash works perfectly well as a whole, which is something, given how great its individual parts are.

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