Three out of five stars
Meryl Streep is the world’s greatest actress. If she weren’t, "Ricki and the Flash" would be just another disappointing, pedestrian, predictable August release.
When Ricki shows up, Julie doesn’t exactly welcome her with open arms. Neither do the rest of Rikki’s kids. A bit clichéd, but if you haven’t seen Mamie Gummer act, well, she’s her mother’s daughter. Watching these two together, regardless of the scene they’re playing, is thoroughly satisfying. And of course, it’s their relationship that’s at the heart of the movie.
One of the best parts of this story is that it flips the script, so to speak, on the idea it’s mostly men who abandon their families to chase their dreams. Kudos to Oscar-winning screenwriter Diablo Cody (2007’s "Juno") for constructing a story that deconstructs a tired cliché. The same goes for Rikki’s relationship with Greg -- this time, it’s the man who wants more.
Unfortunately, Cody succumbs to quite a few other predictable clichés, as well as some mediocre dialogue (and mind you, I’m a Diablo Cody fan). Fortunately, Streep’s performance is so strong, she makes it work.
It also helps that she’s surrounded by world-class actors, including Kline ("Sophie’s Choice," anyone?), and also goes toe-to-toe with one of the world’s greatest stage actresses, Audra McDonald, who plays Kline’s current wife and de facto mom to Ricki’s children.
While it’s a pleasure to see Streep and McDonald together, McDonald’s character is so perfect, it’s hard to believe.
Indeed, “Ricki and the Flash” is so predictable, the story itself is hard to believe. Never mind Streep’s brilliance -- she also does her own singing and guitar-playing -- or the terrific performances by the rest of the cast.
There was a real opportunity here to make a profound piece of art. Instead, we’re left with a perfunctory piece of filmmaking that doesn’t go much beyond that.
"Ricki and the Flash" is a nice movie but it’s also nothing special.