Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Ricki and the Flash


Four Oscar winners right up front. Written by Diablo Cody, directed by Jonathan Demme, co-starring Kevin Kline. And of course starring the incredible Meryl Streep. She is a rock singer who abandoned her family a long time ago to follow her dream. She had one album that went nowhere, and now fronts a group of oldies but goodies in a medium-sized dive in Tarzana, where they have been the house band for almost a decade. Her “real” job is a checker in a Whole Foods type store.

Then she hears from her ex that her daughter (played by her real-life daughter, Mamie Gummer) has been ditched by her husband and is sunk in depression. When she gets to Indianapolis, dead broke as usual, she finds the girl tried to commit suicide. There is an awful dinner with her family, including hubby’s new wife, where we meet the girl’s brothers. After a confrontation with the wife, a wise woman who bends over backward to be fair to Ricky, and who has raised these kids without any help from her, she flies back to California. Later, she returns for her eldest son’s wedding, and plays some music, which is the feel-good ending.

I’m sorry to say that the story is entirely predictable. I mean, I knew before we even met him that one son would be gay. Little things like that. It’s like it was put together from a kit.

But I’m going to recommend it, and the reason is simple. It’s not a bad story, but you should see it just to hear Meryl Streep singing. Yeah, we all know by now that she can sing, but what stunned me is the range of her singing. She did ABBA in Mamma Mia!, and has done other stuff, and now we see that the chick can really rock out. She can do a Janis Joplin blues growl or scream, or belt it out with the best of them. She actually learned to play the guitar for this role. Okay, other than guitar solos, rock chords are not all that hard to learn, as millions of talentless wannabes have shown us. But if this group went on tour they could sell out medium-sized venues, they are that good. All the other members are real rock veterans. (Her lead guitar is Rick Springfield, who I met for about ten minutes many years ago, when he was thinking about buying the rights to one of my stories. Nothing came of it, and I can’t even recall which story it was now.) In this 104-minute movie, there must be at least 30 minutes of the band just playing. Every number is a knock-out. Incredible!