Growing into a groove with Meryl Streep’s Ricki and the Flash



Meryl Streep and Rick Springfield are on stage in a bar, characters by the name of Ricki and Greg in band named the Flash, covering the song American Girl by Tom Petty.

She sounds pretty cool. He sounds fine. Their bandmates (also notable pro musicians in real life, Joe Vitale on drums, Bernie Worrell on keyboard and Rick Rosas, may he RIP, on bass) are settling into the punch. Rock is classic. Great start. Then they stage-banter the tune to the happy crowd as a great one from 1977.

Holy crap, I think. My Wayback Machine really is getting way back. Really, though, that’s the point of Ricki and the Flash, written by Diablo Cody, directed by Jonathan Demme, and viewed this Saturday afternoon matinee showing in the Regal Cinema theater in the Shoppingtown Mall surrounded by my dear wife Karen and dozens of folks who also were there when Petty’s song was in the soundtrack to Fast Times at Ridgemont High and might be found at a bar dancing to it still now much like the graying but happy extras in the scenes flashing up there in front of us.

Time goes by so fast, and yet so much has happened.

Ricki at last takes that cellphone call she’s been ignoring from Indianapolis. It’s her ex with upsetting news. Daughter Julie is going through a rough patch. Her husband Max has ditched her for another woman, and she’s not reacting well.

Mom Linda jets back to help. Yes, in that life ditched long ago to chase LA rock dreams, she’d yet to become Ricki.

What unfolds is a story sad and strong, well-told, well-played, and, well, familiar in this American society of split-ups and the new family dynamics that result.

Director Demme lets little wild things slip out from Ricki’s personality back in Linda’s world, but certainly nothing like Something Wild, his classic fish-out-of-family-familiar-water film. He’s left that violence and really far-out relationship crap back with Ray Liotta, Melanie Griffith and Jeff Daniels in 1986.

Instead we get a rollercoaster ride of emotional turmoil between mother and daughter, and two sons, and a former spouses, and aging rockers and new lovers.

The chemistry between all of them works, with a sweet and funny scene between Streep and Kline revolving around some “medicinal” pot and stored memories, and a group restaurant dinner that couldn’t be more at the point of True Confessions meets We Gotta Get Outta This Place. The best one-one-one scenes, no surprise, are between Streep and Mamie Gummer, the perfect choice to play Julie, being her daughter in real life and all.

Just when fences seem to be taking that plywood to patch the old hole, the replacement wife/mother played by Audra McDonald returns from a trip to tend to her failing father, and, poof to Linda and back to LA Ricki goes.

Here things slow a bit while she sorts out her feeling toward Greg and he proves how smart he may be, but Demme scores major points with a finale that puts it all into a fine focus, for all generations.

No spoiler I, but I will allow that the scene includes my now favorite cover of a Bruce Springteen song ever.

And a few tears tumbled from my seen-a-lot eyes.

37 thoughts on “Growing into a groove with Meryl Streep’s Ricki and the Flash

  1. “Holy crap, I think. My Wayback Machine really is getting way back”
    Now, how many among us, actually watched Moose an’ Squirrel?

    Yes Mark. I read the entire review. I was curious about this M. Streep new effort and to be honest… and the last thing I saw her in was ‘Jules Verne and Julie’ or something… I liked it, but who does not love Amy?
    NEway… I have an hour or four to kill, so I am gonna bombast your recent posts with my bombast.
    Because you are my friend and becuz, the hit to yer stats never hurts…
    Just Kidding.
    I love your movie reviews.


  2. Ah, bro Mark, I hate secrets. This is one I want to see, and I have to wait for it to come out on CD, or web-cast, or something other than the big, loud screen. You’re killing me here. I love Streep, and she really can sing. She has a wonderful voice.


      • Can’t wait. It should make my stay in this same old unfinished projects apartment easier to handle, especially since they probably won’t have any elevators at all in service before long, so I’ll still be sitting here, on the inside looking out at the world, pining away, wondering what is happening on the outside — want me to shut up yet bro Mark? I’m getting to be a genius at whining.


      • Don’t tell me that bro Mark. I should just shut up and try to sleep for a change. I’m on my way very soon now. Eyes shutting now.


      • I have not been writing as many reviews on films. I saw Jay and you writing good complete reviews and quit. I make comments like on your or his post that may differ to give perspective but I did not feel I added enough to make it worth a post. My grandkids liked “Home,” not so much “Inside Out,” enjoyed “Pixels” and “Minions.” I liked “Spy,” “Train Wreck,” “Kingsman,” “Wild,””The DUFF,” and “Still Alice.” (Last 3 on library DVD’s)


      • I do not think you should stop on your blog, Robin. I really enjoy reading your reviews done there your style. Please, you have much knowledge about movies and many opinions about how they relate to you, your family, and society in general. I say, write on! It does not matter what Jay (a woman, by the way) or I do on our blogs. I think her film reviews are more in depth than mine, but that doesn’t make me stop. I just chalk it up to different missions and styles.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Mark, thanks for such a nice comment and I will ponder upon this subject. I will post about movies that strike me as unique or meaningful but don’t want to be redundant.
        Mark, I am glad you reminded me about Jay, too. She mentioned Sean once and yet did not want to assume. . . Better “safe than sorry.” Good to know for sure 🙂
        I spent the night at son and DIL’s house waiting for new baby Hendrix. It is now 4:13 and she is at 7 cm so pr I grease is slow. I will keep you posted. First day of school making big circle to elementsry, then middle and last preschool. I would like the time in between to blog and read. Laundry and dishes are still more fun than the warehouse. I saved 48 hours of sick time and may end up using 36. Depends on how Trista feels.Thanks again, Mark for placing value on my reviews.


      • Well, I am assuming, too, Robin, but I really get the feeling from the blog that Jay is a she.

        Anyway. Best of luck with the arrival of baby Hendrix. How Exciting! Yes, keep us posted, my friend. ❤


  3. I’m intrigued by the trailers for this film. I know that Streep learned how to play rhythm guitar for the roll. I wonder if she’ll get another Oscar nomination. Oh, and if it makes you feel any better, my 6 year old daughter loves “American Girl.”


  4. When we were in LA, we saw the obligatory enormous billboards with newly released movies. Saw the one with Meryl Streep dressed as a rocker, and my husband and I were quite puzzled. Based on your review, it sounds as though she pulled the rocker role off quite elegantly. Must go see it – probably not a movie my boys will accompany me to (doesn’t seem as if there is any massive explosions, fighting or car chases or bodily injuries of any type), so I will be going to it alone (oh well – at least I won’t have to share my Sno-Caps).


  5. You know Mark I really appreciate the fact that you review movies for folks. One of these days I may have to go see one. For some reason none of the movies that are coming out trip my trigger. I guess I am stuck in the past with TCM. But one day…one day.


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