Heaven-made match

Philip Cu-Unjieng (The Philippine Star) - September 9, 2015 - 10:00am

Film review: Ricki and the Flash

MANILA, Philippines - In cinema history, Meryl Streep needs no introduction. Meanwhile,  with such films as Silence of the Lambs and Philadelphia under his belt, director Jonathan Demme is no slouch. What many may not know is that Demme has also been responsible for some of the most arresting documentaries on popular music — with Bruce Springsteen, Talking Heads and Neil Young, among his chosen subjects. So the film, Ricki and the Flash may have been some pet project Demme had floating in his head, merging the two worlds of drama and music in one film. And when you have Streep agreeing to do the film, perform the numbers by singing and learning to play rhythm guitar, it would seem like a match made in musical heaven.

Ricki (Streep) is an aging rocker who decades ago left her family to pursue her rock ’n roll dream. And after one album, she is now left playing dives and small bars, churning out covers of ’70s and ’80s hits. I loved it when she panders to the younger ones in her audience by playing hits of Lady Gaga and Pink from a decade ago. And it is interesting to note that Demme surrounds Streep with real musicians as the Flash has lead guitarist Greg (Rick Springfield) and a trio of true session musicians. Trouble rears its head when ex-husband Pete (Kevin Kline) calls to relate how daughter Julie (Mamie Gummer, Streep’s real-life daughter) attempted suicide because her husband cheated on her and has left her. Along with the two sons she abandoned, Ricki now has to face the family, and try to be some kind of mother. This is complicated by the fact that Pete has since remarried and has a wonderful wife (Audra MacDonald).

With themes of family, parental responsibility and how pursuing your dream can both be fulfillment and yet “bite your behind”; the film is a breezy minor Streep film that it essentially buoyed by her performance, especially the scenes between Streep and daughter Gummer, and the musical portions of the film — which showcase just how much music means to Demme. Unfortunately, the plot is basic paint-by-numbers and we know where the film is heading from the get-go; more entertained by the zingy one-liners that come every so often, and the manner in which Streep, Kline, MacDonald and Gummer attack their roles.

While this may not be the film that has us forgetting the Demme classics of yesteryear, it is a serviceable diversion and has its moments of charm. I just wish they have found a better title for the film. The Flash could have been retained as the name of the band, but if they wanted the musical reference, I would have gone for the Steely Dan hit, Rikki Don’t Lose That Number, and made it as the title for this film.

Ricki and the Flash is now showing exclusively at Ayala Cinemas.

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