Flat Notes: A Review of ‘Ricki and the Flash’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - August 07, 2015
Flat Notes: A Review of ‘Ricki and the Flash’

Pedigree will only get you so far on the best of days, and even a bunch of Oscar winners can get together and drop a turd on occasion.  Ricki and the Flash is an uninspired, trite and boring family drama that tries to jazz things up with some quality rock and roll and it just plays out as a vanity project for Meryl Streep to try and do something a little different than her normal wheel house.

Dreams can cost a lot, and for Ricki Rendazzo (Meryl Streep) she left her husband and her family in pursuit of that rock ‘n roll dream.  Now years later, with the dreams fizzled she returns home after her daughter (Mamie Gummer) has a nervous breakdown in the wake of her own divorce, and has to face the music with her daughter, her two sons (Sebastian Stan and Nick Westrate) her ex-husband (Kevin Kline) and his wife (Audra MacDonald) to see if she at least has a chance to reconnect with the life that she left behind all those years ago.

With an at best, vague script from Diablo Cody and some lazy direction from Jonathan Demme, the entire purpose of Ricki and the Flash felt like an excuse for Meryl to get to sing and take guitar lessons, as it has no redeeming qualities and is just an unlikable story that you can’t get behind.

1288050 - RICKI AND THE FLASH

Behind the lens, Demme doesn’t manage to give this tired premise any genuine life and it all just goes through the motions in a fairly unspectacular fashion.  It looks good and makes Meryl look like the rock star that she wishes she was in a variety of extended musical sequences and is obviously competent in telling a story but was handcuffed by characters that were either a little too one dimensional or just kind of terrible.  Diablo Cody’s script is rife with clichés, flat and corny dialogue that never allows any of the performers to elevate the material.  You know the story it is TRYING to tell, but it is so weak that it never knows if it is getting anywhere or not.  It is thread bare plotting that never cares to give us an engaging story arc or remotely likeable characters in between musical numbers.

Granted, I’d watch Meryl Streep read the phone book for two hours and it would probably be good, but even she can’t breathe life into this barely sympathetic and unlikeable character and when she finally gets a little bit of emotional redemption it is done in such a flat and awkward way that it almost doesn’t make any sense.  Nothing about this movie ever feels genuine for anyone involved.  Rather than playing an emotional breakdown, Mamie Gummer’s character just comes off as hateful and angry…and don’t get me wrong the character deserves to be but she transitions that to emotionally flat so quickly that it never clicks and feels fake.  Rick Springfield is actually OK as her rocker boyfriend as he plays up his soap opera chops for all they are worth, while Audra Macdonald deserves a part that is a little more fleshed out, and Sebastian Stan & Kevin Kline look confused just to be on set in first place.ricki-and-the-flash

It’s a story that tries to go to some brave emotional places as it examines the power of redemption through family, but everything about Ricki and the Flash is so dysfunctional that these characters all deserve each other.  It’s like the scowling wedding crowd in the final sequence almost sums up the movie perfectly, they wonder what the hell they have been invited to and why they are even there in the first place.  It makes for a very hollow story that ends up kind of pointless.

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David Voigt is a Toronto based writer with a problem and a passion for the moving image and all things cinema. Having moved from production to the critical side of the aisle for well over 10 years now at outlets like Examiner.com, Criticize This, Dork Shelf (Now That Shelf), to.Night Newspaper he’s been all across his city, the country and the continent in search of all the news and reviews that are fit to print from the world of cinema.
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