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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Sep 13, 2015

Ricki And The Flash Review: Strictly For Ardent Meryl Streep Fans Who Can't Get Enough Of Her

IF YOU'RE a bonafide Meryl Streep fan who can't get enough of her (just like us), you'll thoroughly enjoy "Ricki and the Flash" where she plays an aging rock singer. It's directed by Jonathan Demme, but it's so different from his dark Oscar-winning piece, "The Silence of the Lambs". Meryl is reunited here with Kevin Kline, her leading man in "Sophie's Choice", for which she won her first best actress Oscar.

Meryl is Linda, also known as Ricki, and she is lead vocalist to a band called the Flash. She recorded an album but she never really made it big. Now, she's often broke and augments her income by working as a cashier at the check out counter of an L.A. supermarket.

She gets a call from ex-husband Pete (Kline) who's in Indianapolis. Their daughter Julie (Mamie Gummer, Meryl's real life daughter who has a recurring role as a neophyte lawyer in "The Good Wife") is a depressed wreck after her husband dumped her for another woman. She flies to Indianapolis to help out, meeting their two sons anew, Josh (Sebastian Stan), who's about to get married, and Adam (Nick Westrate), who's gay.

All her children have big big grudges against her. When she decided to pursue her career in singing, Pete remarried to Maureen (Audra McDonald), who's African American, and their kids are very close to her. As maybe expected in interpersonal relationships movies of this sort, the initial meeting between the characters initially do not go well, what with long withheld recriminations managing to surface again, once in a loud public argument while they're about to have dinner in a fancy restaurant. Josh is soon getting married but he has no intentions of inviting his mom to their wedding. The confrontation between ex and current wives of Pete particularly didn't go well.

To the credit of Demme and screenwriter Diablo Cody (who won the Oscar for "Juno"), the film avoids too much melodrama. As a matter of fact, it becomes to low key you'd wish they indulge a bit more in some mawkishness given the volatile family situations. Even the one scene were Meryl breaks down and finally cries, she is shown crying on the sink with her back to the camera.

Lest you think that the film is about an erring mother who has realized her mistakes and wants to make up for lost time, the film doesn't really dwell on that. Rather, it's about a parent who wants to reconnect with her estranged kids now that they're grown up and wants to start a new adult-to-adult relationship with them. As her new boyfriend, 80s pop icon Rick Springfield as Greg tells her: "It's not our kids' job to love us. It's our job to love them. We're their parents."

The whole cast gives a heartwarming performance, but since Demme doesn't want so much to wallow in drama, what he does is to devote more screen time to the song numbers to showcase Meryl's singing, which frankly overshadows her acting. Meryl was nominated before in singing roles for "Into the Woods" and "Mamma Mia". She's so much fun to watch (with heavy eye makeup, braided hair, rock star leather get ups) as she does more of her own singing here than in any of those films, mostly cover versions of songs from the likes of Pink, Tom Petty, Lady Gaga and the song that brings all her fractured family and the wedding guests together, Bruce Springsteen's "My Love Will Not Let You Down".