Ricki and the Flash (3 stars)

Ricki and the Flash

Meryl Streep rocks out in this well-cast but slight musical dramedy

Meryl Streep is a blast in a film from writer Diablo Cody (Juno) about an unrepentant rock chick who, decades earlier, left her family to pursue her dream of stardom. It never happened but Ricki still rocks out a suburban LA bar every weekend with bandmates the Flash (all legendary sidemen in real life), while struggling to survive on her cashier pay cheque. When her wealthy ex-husband Pete (Kevin Kline) rings with dramatic news, she nervously returns to Indianapolis to face the music from her angry, grown-up children.

Ricki and the Flash is cute and fun but slight, with too many musical numbers – good though much of the eclectic repertoire, from Springsteen to Pink, is – and too little incident. There’s a magical moment between Streep and Kline that reminds you how gorgeous and passionately hot they were in Sophie’s Choice over 30 years ago, but it’s fleeting. Other highlights include a brilliant dinner-table meltdown and a classic, catty confrontation between Ricki and Pete's second wife Maureen (Audra McDonald).

But there isn’t enough quality material for the high-calibre cast to work with, from Streep’s superb mini-me daughter Mamie Gummer to Aussie rocker-actor Rick Springfield as the guitarist in love with impulsive, honest, untogether Ricki. We know Meryl has the pipes, but what a shame McDonald didn’t also get to sing. She’s only a Broadway megastar with a record number of Tonys (six) to prove it, so they missed a trick there. And the hostility and disdain that greets dreadlocked, leather-clad Ricki on all sides on her quest for redemption is preposterous. Indianapolis is a rock 'n' roll city, for Pete’s sake, not the village that time forgot. You expect something richer, with more texture from Cody and certainly director Jonathan Demme. Still, Meryl is a goddess, there are some laughs and the sing-along climax is sweetly joyous.

General release from Fri 4 Sep.

Ricki and the Flash

  • 3 stars
  • 2015
  • US
  • 1h 41min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Jonathan Demme
  • Written by: Diablo Cody
  • Cast: Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline, Mamie Gummer
  • UK release: 7 August 2015

Ricki (Streep) left her family decades ago to be a rock star; today, she leads a bar band. Then her ex-husband (Kline) calls with dramatic news. Despite Cody's uncharacteristically flimsy story, Streep and her real-life daughter Gummer are wonderful, there are some laughs as well as a joyous sing-along climax.