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Review: Ricki and the Flash

For the past 38 years Meryl Streep has consistently churned out excellent performances. Interestingly, the Oscar winner’s most recent films have found her playing larger-than-life women, who can often be difficult to relate to and sympathize with. In Ricki and the Flash Streep plays a regular person; someone who has made mistakes, and relatable ones at that.

Jonathan Demme’s film introduces us to Ricki Rendazzo (Streep) and woman who left her husband and three children to pursue her dreams of being a rock star. Like so many, Ricki’s ambitions landed her and her band The Flash with a permanent gig jamming nightly at a run down LA pub. Even with her day job as a cashier at a supermarket, Ricki is barely able to make ends meet. Ricki scrapes what she can together and flies to Indianapolis after her ex-husband (Kevin Kline) calls and informs her that their daughter Julie (Streep’s real-life daughter Mamie Gummer) is going through a messy divorce. After being absent for over a decade, Ricki attempts to rebuild her relationship with her daughter while making nice with her ex.

The marrying of Streep’s monstrous talents with Demme’s musical genius is absolutely revelatory. Demme allows Ricki and the Flash to play many musical numbers throughout the film; each of these numbers being performed in full. Making this even more effective is the fact that these are not just randomly selected songs, but rather each song aligns with the themes and plot of the scenes the surround it.

Perhaps one of the biggest surprises in the film is Rick Springfield, who stars as The Flash’s guitar player and Ricki’s love interest. The musician not only has great chemistry with Streep, but also provides the actress with emotional material that sets up some of the film’s strongest scenes. Their rendition of Drift Away is sure to bring shivers to all viewers.

Diablo Cody’s screenplay is surprisingly restrained, steering away from the Juno writer’s usual quirkiness and instead opting for more classical family melodrama. That being said, it is that narrative simplicity that allows Ricky and the Flash to be such a great film. This is a film about a woman trying to live with her regrets and do her best to reform lost connections. That is it. With the help of a killer soundtrack and a wonderful cast, that is exactly what we get. It is certainly fair to say that Ricki and the Flash is Streep’s best film since 2008’s Doubt and may be the best summer movie of 2015.

[star v=45]

Matt Hoffman

Matthew Hoffman is a Toronto-based cinephile who especially enjoys French films and actresses over the age of 50; including but not limited to: Isabelle Huppert, Meryl Streep, and Jacki Weaver.