It has to be tough to be the child of a living legend, especially in
show business, but Mamie Gummer seems to be handling it quite well,
thank you very much. The oldest daughter of multiple Oscar winner Meryl
Streep, Gummer is making a name for herself in the family business.
Like Emilio Estevez (son of Martin Sheen) and Angelina Jolie (daughter
of Jon Voight), Gummer uses a family name (her father's last name)
while establishing her own identity in film (and television). Like
Jaden Smith (son of Will Smith), Gummer has joined her famous parent on
screen while developing her acting skills. As a toddler, Gummer had a
role in her mother's movie "Heartburn" (1987). As an adult, Gummer
played a younger version of her mother's character in 2007's "Evening".
(Gummer also had a brief scene in Streep's 2006 film "The Devil Wears
Prada" but that scene was dropped in editing.) In 2015, it's the
mother-daughter team playing mother and daughter in "Ricki and the
Flash" (PG-13, 1:41) and it's kind of hard to decide which actress
did a better job.
Streep plays the title character, Ricki Rendazzo, an aging rock
musician. The film opens with Ricki playing a set of musical covers as
the singer in a local bar's house band. She obviously loves what she's
doing, but it's short of where she hoped she'd be, having to hold
another job as a supermarket cashier to make ends meet (and then, just
barely). Then, not long into the story, her other identity beckons.
Pete Brummel (Kevin Klein) repeatedly calls her cell phone until she
finally answers. He's not calling Ricki. He's calling his ex-wife Linda
to tell her that their daughter, Julie (Gummer) has been dumped by her
cheating husband and dad is worried about her. It's an understatement.
Although she can barely afford the ticket, Ricki-slash-Linda hops on a
plane from L.A. back home to Indianapolis to be there for her daughter.
It's the most she's done for any of her children in over 25 years.
As you might imagine, in her kids' eyes, this grand gesture isn't
nearly enough to make up for leaving the family to pursue her rock and
roll fantasy in the late 80s and having precious little contact with
them since. Ricki's appearance sends the very depressed and
highly-medicated Julie into a rage and a family dinner which includes
her two sons (Sebastian Stan and Ben Platt) goes only a little bit
better. During her short visit, Ricki makes considerable progress
pulling Linda out of her funk, but when Pete's current wife (Audra
McDonald) returns from a visit with her sick father, it's clear that
it's time for Ricki to leave. It's back to California, back to the
grocery store, back to the bar stage and back to her lead guitarist
pseudo-boyfriend, Greg (Rick Springfield). As Ricki tortures herself
over the sorry state of her relationship with her children, Greg
comforts her and encourages her not to quit trying to make amends. As
badly as she wants to make this better, an opportunity that arises to
do just that still makes for a difficult decision.
Considering the great pedigree of "Ricki and the Flash", the movie
should have been better than it was. Oh, don't get me wrong the
acting is top notch, but other aspects of the film were disappointing.
Streep does her usual outstanding work (not to take her for granted,
but this is Meryl Streep were talking about here) and there are
award-worthy performances from Streep's fellow Oscar veteran (and
former co-star) Kevin Kline, definitely from Ms. Gummer, from McDonald
and even from Springfield. I expected more, however, from Oscar-winning
director Jonathan Demme ("The Silence of the Lambs") and Oscar-winning
screenwriter Diablo Cody ("Juno").
Except for one great line late in the movie, the dialog is unremarkable
and often the story feels forced. In one scene, Ricki points out the
double-standard for male and female rock musicians who are absentee
parents, but fails to acknowledge that Ricki could have still done had
more of a relationship with her children than she did. A few references
are made to Ricki being a conservative (even though she's a musician in
California and her family back in the mid-West seems pretty liberal),
but never gives any context for that characterization or even makes it
at all pertinent to the story. The script also fails to explain
anything about the circumstances surrounding Ricki's departure from the
family or much about how her career developed over the ensuing quarter
Throughout the film, questionable writing and directing choices
overplay many characters' disdain for Ricki to the point that the
ultimate resolution of the story feels far-fetched. Even some of the
camera work and editing seem unnecessarily melodramatic. The theme of
family reconciliation is worthy and heart-warming, but for a story of
an aging rocker trying to reconnect with family left behind, 2015's
"Danny Collins" is a much better story and with equally good acting.
The acting is the main reason to see "Ricki". The rest is just a small
flash in the pan. "B-"