In Juno, Diablo Cody told the story of a teenage girl who ultimately grows up. In Young Adult, she told the story of a 30-something-year-old who refuses to grow up. In Ricki and the Flash, she tells a story about a senior woman who acts like it’s still 1988. Cody is a writer who understands that no matter how old one gets, growing up can always be difficult. As a matter of fact, you get the sense that Cody herself never entirely grew up. That’s worked to her advantage, however, demonstrating that sometimes the most profound wisdom can be found in those who are eternally young at heart.
Meryl Streep plays Linda, a would-be rocker who goes by the stage name of Ricki. She’s been trying to make it as a rock ‘n’ role star all her life, but finds herself performing in a bar every night. Ricki’s virtually broke and works at a grocery store to pay the bills. While her lifestyle isn’t glamorous, Ricki isn’t particularly disappointed with how things have turned out. Playing onstage with her band is all she really needs to be happy. Ricki eventually realizes, though, that there’s a major part of her life that she’s been neglecting in favor of her own happiness.
Mamie Gummer has been doing respectable work in film and television for some time now, but is sadly often viewed as simply being Meryl Streep’s daughter. Although she might never receive the same level of acclaim as Streep, Gummer is a strong actress in her own right that doesn’t deserve to forever live in her mother’s shadow. She has a winning supporting performance here as Ricki’s daughter, who attempted suicide after getting divorced and has refused to shower since. Ricki decides to return home to comfort her daughter and reconnect with the rest of her family, which includes Kevin Kline as her ex-husband.
Halfway in, you might think that you have Ricki and the Flash all figured out. Ricki is going to realize that she’s been living in a fantasy world, turns her life around, and wins back her family. The film is much smarter than an average romantic comedy, however, and never betrays its title character. It knows that people can’t change who they are, but they can better themselves and find redemption.
Although Jonathan Demme will always be best known for directing Silence of the Lambs, he’s more than capable of making movies about family drama like Rachel Getting Married. Ricki and the Flash is another wonderful outing from Demme that’s ultimately about modern families VS traditional families. It’d be easy for a movie like this to turn somebody into a bad guy, especially when Ricki’s ex-husband’s new wife enters the mix. Demme and Cody know that life doesn’t always have villains, though, even when people get divorced. Most of us are just trying to co-exist and live our own individual lives the best we can. Interestingly enough, Ant-Man is another recent film that exemplifies this.
Ricki and the Flash never comes off as manipulative or contrived. It merely shows people experiencing their lives through the good times and the bad, which can be much more fascinating than people realize. It does this through honesty, humor, and music too. The ending in particular is a feel-good highlight of the year with a mic drop of a finale that will leave you completely uplifted, but simultaneously sad that the movie’s over.