I still do this silly thing where I blame my mother for picking me up late every day from kindergarten. There can be an argument made that maybe after twenty years, I’m not over it, but I do feel over it. I’ve looked at it as a funny running gag I do with her, because it sort of fits in with the nature of our relationship. I’m the serious, moody, sarcastic one, and she’s the cheery, overly-positive one.
There’s a scene in Ricki and the Flash where Ricki “loses her cool” in front of an audience. Instead of the funny on-stage band banter we’re used to, she gets serious, talking about how unfair it is that mothers shoulder more blame from children than fathers do. She is just back from a rough trip, where she learns rather bluntly how much her children resent her for abandoning them to follow her dreams. It’s a tough, emotional scene that really stuck out to me. Because of all the times I’ve blamed my mother about picking me up late from school, I never thought to blame my dad–jokingly or seriously–for being largely absent (due to being a serious workaholic) during my early childhood.
It’s not just that one scene that makes an impression in Ricki and the Flash; there are more than a few. In a role that clearly puts her out of her comfort zone, Meryl Streep is fantastic as an aged rocker, sort of lost in the world and trying to reconnect with the family she left behind. Ricki’s career never took off like she hoped, so now she’s a cashier at a Whole Foods stand-in and performs nightly at local bar with her band. Rick Springfield is sensitive and charming as the Flash’s guitarist, Greg, who also has feelings for Ricki.
When Ricki gets a phone call from her ex-husband (Kevin Kline), she learns that her daughter, Julie (Mamie Gummer), is going through a very rough divorce. She makes the quick decision to travel to Indiana to see them. There she learns that things are much more complicated than she imagined. She’s forced to face what she left behind and deal with the consequences.
If you’ve seen the trailers, you’ll find that Ricki and the Flash isn’t as straightforward as it’s marketed. Diablo Cody crafts together a good, if predictable, story with interesting characters. Her mark is very obvious, especially when some of the characters’ idiosyncrasies come out. The script is also so obviously made for director Jonathan Demme, incorporating several key elements from his past films. The material is familiar, but there is a part of it that feels refreshing after a summer of bombastic blockbusters.
Ricki and the Flash is deeper than it looks but still delivers with some comedic moments and that feel-good ending most audiences look for. The thing is that, unlike many movies, Ricki earns its feel-good ending. It’s predictable, but it feels right for this type of movie. The emotional chords it strikes made it resonate so thoroughly with me. Despite being Ricki’s story, I liked that it dealt with how parents see and treat their children, how children see and treat their parents, how that entire dynamic can shift and evolve over time, and how it can break apart or heal. There are many layers to Ricki and the Flash. While I think for most of them it just skims the surface, the moments that do dig a little deeper make this a better than average movie.
Ricki and the Flash is now playing in theaters.