RICKI AND THE FLASH – Review by Susan Granger

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Miraculous Meryl Streep can do anything, as she’s proven again and again on-screen. This time she plays Ricki Rendazzo, a middle-aged rock musician who, decades ago, left her husband and three young children, moving from Indianapolis to Los Angeles, seeking fame and fortune – neither of which she’s found. Commitment-phobic Ricki fronts a Tarzana bar band called The Flash. That’s her night job. During the day, she cashiers at a chic grocery store, forced to smile and be cheery to every customer. Read on…

Suddenly, she’s summoned home to the Midwest by her ex-husband, Pete (Kevin Kline), to console their beleaguered daughter Julie (Mamie Gummer) who attempted suicide after her husband left her.

Arriving, penniless, at Pete’s McMansion in a posh, gated community, where she’s remembered by her real-name of Linda Brummel, Ricki not only realizes that Julie is deeply depressed but also that Pete’s second wife, Maureen (Audra McDonald), the epitome of domesticity, has actually raised their children.

In addition, Ricki discovers that one of her sons is gay and the other is engaged to be married – only she’s not included in the wedding.

Written by Diablo Cody (“Juno”), who supposedly referenced her own musician mother-in-law, and directed by Jonathan Demme (“Rachel Getting Married”), this acerbic comic drama wavers unevenly between domestic angst and rock concertizing; its disparate elements are disrupting and disconcerting, diluting its essential humanity and emotional resonance.

Not surprisingly, Streep is superb as the convention-defying rebel, subconsciously seeking familial redemption. The nuanced scenes with her real-life daughter, Mamie Gummer, sizzle with authenticity, as do her effective confrontations with Kevin Kline and Audra McDonald.

But an inordinate amount of time is devoted to Streep’s performing with pros like Rick Springfield, who plays her loyal lover/lead guitarist, along with sidemen Bernie Worrell, Joe Vitale and Rick Rosas – the late bassist to whom the film is dedicated.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Ricki and the Flash” is a contrived 6, a bit of a disappointment.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.