By Jodi Bogert
To be frank, I was thrilled when I heard Meryl Streep would be playing the title character in “Ricki and the Flash,” especially since her real-life daughter, Mamie Gummer, would be joining her. With that said, I feel that the director wasn’t too keen on using the film’s running time for character development.
“Ricki and the Flash” centers on a rock singer, Linda “Ricki” Rendazzo. She performs in The Flash, with her eventual love interest, Greg (Rick Springfield). Linda gets news from her ex-husband, Pete (Kevin Kline), that her daughter, Julie (Mamie Gummer), got divorced because of her husband’s infidelity and moved back home. Linda hasn’t seen her daughter or two sons in years since she left home to pursue her musical career. Nevertheless, she returns to meet the frost at the homestead.
Mother and daughter do have a chance to meet in the middle amongst the remnants of their lives, and manage not to kill each other for Linda’s return is her chance to redeem herself to her family. That is if they will let her in.
The characters shine throughout the film. Streep plays Linda exceptionally well—as does she the electric guitar; the classic rock soundtrack sets the perfect tone.
“Ricki and the Flash” is also a film where the absent parent gets a chance to voice herself. In one scene, Linda mentions Mick Jagger and how male rock stars “don’t have the strings pulled as tightly,” a metaphor for the fact that a mother’s choices are limited in what she gets to pursue besides raising her children. That is one of the most profound quotes of the movie; it emphasizes how society has a long way to go in creating equal opportunities for both genders. At least Linda admits where she made a mistake in leaving her children behind.
Linda and Julie are completely natural together. Casting an actual mother-daughter duo was an organic route. Even though they are estranged, the two women are the same person. Their characters know each other on a deep level, even if they haven’t spoken to one another in years.
I was convinced that Julie would be a ruined woman from a cheating husband. She startled me the first time I saw her, almost pouncing like a wild animal after Linda returns. She looked rabid too. Gummer has what it takes to keep the family business going.
The character of Greg was slightly glossed over. It seems that Linda and Greg connected because they both experienced the turbulence of leaving one’s family. Furthermore, the relationships Linda has with Julie and
Greg are similar because they are at a crossroads. They bond because they are all lost together, but Greg is cut short by the dominance of the mother-daughter plotline.
In essence, what the film lacked was enough time to grow the characters. Linda and her screen time with her children felt rushed. There was not enough substance and development to build a bridge between them.
Julie gets minimal time, but her sons are soon forgotten; I blinked and their scenes were over. When I saw her ex-husband, Pete, I realized I would’ve left him too. He was kind of lame and never truly stopped loving her. On a final note, the film’s title confuses me. It made me think of a comic book rather than a family dramedy.