Meryl Streep doesn’t do anything by halves and though her choice to star as a struggling rock star who left her children behind to pursue a dream of stardom may seem arbitrary – it’s not. On closer inspection, Ricki and The Flash is the story of a mother and the fractured relationship she has with her children. On a broader scale it’s reframing societal expectations of what it means to be a good mum.
Streep plays Ricki Rendazzo, leader of the band The Flash. Ricki’s dreams of stardom didn’t work out the way she planned after her marriage disintegrated and she left her children in the care of their affluent father (played by Kevin Kline) and his caring new wife. Now Ricki barely gets by with a job as a cashier by day and musician by night.
Streep could act her way out of a paper bag
Based on her personal choices and limitations, the decision for Ricki to leave her children in the care of their father is a good one. They never want for anything. Except her. Although this is intended to be the big character arc for Ricki, there is never any question that she loves her children, misses them dearly and wants to be a part of their lives. It’s obvious from the early moment she jumps on a plane she can hardly afford to rush to her daughter’s side in a time of need. At the basic level isn’t this what a good mother does? Ensures her kids get the best, even if that means she isn’t always the one who provides it?
There are few surprises in the script or storyline of Ricki and The Flash and the intended tension of the central relationships comes off as weak, but the actors make it work. Streep could act her way out of a paper bag, and pleasantly surprising is Rick Springfield’s performance as Ricki’s tortured love interest and lead guitarist of The Flash. The scene-stealer, however, is Mamie Gummer, Streep’s real-life daughter. All rage and dry humour, Mamie has the best lines and her character’s struggle with mental health lends some needed weight to this comedic drama.
The abundance of cover songs – actually performed by Streep, Springfield and the rest of the band – are entertaining enough to create a rocking film that viewers will enjoy.
Star rating /5: ***
In Australian cinemas August 27
(Review first published in City Hub)