Opening September 3, 2015
Directed by: Jonathan Demme
Writing credits: Diablo Cody
Principle actors: Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline, Mamie Gummer, Rick Springfield, Audra McDonald
We know that Meryl Streep can sing (Into the Woods, A Prairie Home Companion) as well as portray difficult family relationships (August: Osage County). Now she does both, as well as strum a mean guitar.
Linda Brummell (Streep) abandons her husband and children to fend for themselves. She goes to the San Fernando Valley near Los Angeles, in order to reinvent herself as Ricki, a rock musician. She has a long-term relationship with Greg (Springfield), the other lead guitar in their band called the Flash. An emergency situation calls her back to Indiana. Daughter Julie (Gummer) has moved back in with daddy due to her own messy divorce situation. Ricki reconnects with her ex-husband Greg (Kline) and meets his second wife Maureen (McDonald), who deserves some kind words for having raised the kids through difficult teenager years. Ricki reaffirms that her departure was inevitable, but still she feels that she owes something to the family. She stays for her son’s wedding and pays her dues.
The storyline is not very original, with politically correct clichés such as a gay son, an African American second wife, stiff, over-bearing parents-in-law, etc. The main draw is the Flash, a band made up of professional musicians Bernie Worrell, Rock Rosas (who died shortly after completion of the film), and Joe Vitale, as well as Springfield. The new addition to the world of rock is Streep. Her determination and month-long hard work to learn the profession definitely paid off, as she “shreds” the guitar and belts out Bruce Springsteen’s “My Love Will not let you Down” as if there had never been anything else in her vivre. In all there are 10 cover songs performed live by the Flash, plus four more songs on the sound track. Diabo Cody, who wrote the original script, said she was inspired by her own mother-in-law Terry, who is a grandmother of six, as well as being a lead singer in a Jersey Shore rock band called Silk and Steel. Too bad Audra McDonald had no chance to sing, while playing the second wife; her singing career in real life is amazing. Rick Springfield, of course, is a professional rock singer, as well as composer and actor. Mamie Gummer is Streep’s real daughter and interacts well with her mother. The locations are supposedly in California and Indiana, but the film was actually shot in New York. Definitely take the time to see it; the music and the cast alone are worth time and money. ( )