Ricki (Meryl Streep) fronts a small rock band, seemingly going through the motions, and pleasing the regulars at a run down old bar with her cover versions of classic rock songs. She has an on/off relationship with her lead guitarist and very little else going on in her life. During the day she struggles to hold down a job at a fancy food store.
Years earlier, Ricki decided to pursue her dreams of stardom, leaving behind three kids and a devastated husband (Kevin Kline). With very little contact with her family, Ricki is forced to confront the ghosts of her past when her daughter attempts to take her own life following a brutal break-up. Julie (Mamie Gummer) still needs her mother, but they are both as stubborn as one another. In an attempt to heal old wounds, Ricki tries her best to reconnect but her family aren’t going to make it easy for her.
The real problem with Ricki and the Flash is the lack of any real dramatic energy in proceedings. The big face-off between Julie and her mother is meant to be the main thrust of the film, but is dealt with in a rapid manner, as the anger that we initially see is quickly subverted into a feel-good family film, while the other siblings hardly get a look in. Things move too quickly from despair to happiness in the characters lives and yet the story takes an age to get there. Kline is poorly served with a thankless role opposite the real-life mother/daughter pairing of Streep and Gummer.
Diablo Cody’s writing has gone off the boil since her earlier rip-roaring success and the decline is stark with only the superb Young Adult matching up to Juno. Ricki and the Flash feels like a lazy concert album from a tired old group who are happy to deliver any old rubbish. Streep at least keeps you entertained, but Ricki lacks any of the real eccentricity that would make her otherwise interesting, but you are kept guessing by which off-key note Meryl might hit on her next cover.
It’s hard to place too much of the blame on director Jonathan Demme. He doesn’t have much to work with and ends up playing it safe as anything too cute would be wasted. The cast deserve better than this, and so do the audience.