Sunday, November 22, 2015

Video review: "Ricki and the Flash"

If there’s nothing more exhilarating in a movie theater than finding a wonderful film where you didn’t expect, then little is more depressing than walking out let down by a movie you had awaited with enthusiasm. Such was the case for me and “Ricki and the Flash.”

I think Meryl Streep is the finest actor working in film today, and operate under the general assumption that having her in the cast makes anything worth the price of admission. And while “Ricki” certainly isn’t a bad flick, it’s got too many obvious problems in its structure and execution to ever had a chance at being good.

Streep plays a woman who ran out on her family decades ago to pursue her rock ‘n’ roll dreams on the West Coast. She never made it big, but continues to entertain at night while working days as a checkout clerk. Then Ricki gets the call that her daughter, Julie (Mamie Gummer, Streep’s real-life kid), is in a bad way after a terrible breakup.

You can’t go home again, at least not without stirring up old heartbreak, as Ricki discovers in a by-the-numbers trip through resentment and buried longing. The screenplay by Diablo Cody takes a “kitchen sink” approach, lobbing in all sorts of distracting sub-characters and side plots.

The main dynamic between mother and daughter gets lost, and Julie actually disappears for most of the second half. Kevin Kline is poorly used as Ricki’s ex-husband, a diffident but decent fellow who’s moved on from a shattered love life but still feels some warmth toward her.

Throw in the gay son’s coming out, the other son’s wedding, Ricki’s scratchy romance with her lead guitarist (Rick Springfield) and a face-off with her children’s stepmother, and there’s just too many notes in this cacophonous arrangement. And director Jonathan Demme can’t find a consistent tone amidst the chaos.

Streep’s great as always, but “Ricki and the Flash” gets the primary chords wrong.

Video extras are middling. The DVD comes with a making-through documentary, and that’s it. The Blu-ray adds deleted scenes, a photo gallery and a featurette on Springfield’s reemergence as a rock icon and actor.



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