Ricki and the Flash

 

            OK, I'm impressed.  Meryl Streep can do anything.  Maybe even leap tall buildings in a single bound.  Certainly she can sing (though she's already proven that).  But in “Ricki and the Flash,” Meryl Streep takes on the role of an old rocker who's a little frayed at the edges and a little long in the tooth, but she's still out there.  Rockin'.

            Ricki (Meryl Streep) is the lead singer in a bar band.  They're not bad; there's certainly some musicianship there.  Lead guitarist is Greg (Rick Springfield, who is a real musician, but also a one-hit wonder), who also does backup vocals.  Bassist and drummer are both good.  They put out on album, once, but that was it.  Now they play to the regulars at the bar; sometimes people dance, but mostly they just drink.  Including Ricki herself, who's looking like she's been on tour a little too long.  But she gamely puts out the energy for those Springsteen cover songs, and acts like she's still enjoying herself, which is what the patrons pay to see.

            For her day job, she works as a cashier at a grocery store.  She lives in a little apartment by herself.  Greg's in love with her, but she's ambivalent.  Sometimes she'll call him a boyfriend, other times pushes him away for reasons she can't even understand herself.

            Ricki apparently left her home and family----a loving husband and three young children---to pursue her big dream of being a rock star.  It's years later now, and her career never really took off.  So she's broke, and trying to fend off the stink of desperation.  Meanwhile, her former husband, Pete (Kevin Kline) has apparently done very well for himself, and has re-married.  Maureen (Audra McDon ald) has helped her husband raise the kids, and now they're grown and have lives of their own.  Everybody's happy, right?

            Well, not quite.  Pete calls Ricki out of the blue, to tell her that their daughter, Julie (Mamie Gummer, Meryl Streep's real-life daughter), has moved back in, and is really depressed because her new husband left her, and would Ricki please come because Julie needs her Mom right now?  (Maureen is conveniently out of town attending to her ill father.)

            Well, Ricki has to borrow money for the airfare between L.A. and Indianapolis.  And when she arrives at “the big house” she has to ask Pete for the cab fare from the airport.  Julie cusses her out, still angry at her for leaving all those years ago.  But Ricki understands that Julie is just mad at the world right now.  She's through apologizing for what she did.  But she's willing to listen now, and so they start doing little things together---a haircut, a pedicure, a trip to the local donut shop.  Sometime in there Julie begins to thaw out, but not so much her two brothers, one of whom is getting married soon (Ricki didn't even know he was engaged), and the other has declared he is gay, so don't expect any grandkids from him.  Pete, for his part, tries to be the peacemaker, even when Maureen comes home, and she and Ricki have a heart-to-heart that doesn't go so well.

            Back in L.A., Ricki starts getting melancholoy about the whole thing, but realizes that Greg isn't going to wait around forever, either.  So what do you do when your big dream doesn't go according to plan, and you've left some emotional damage in your wake that you can't undo now?

            Meryl Streep is really believable in this role.  Her musical talent is just serviceable enough to complement her incredible acting skills.  Sure, it's a little hokey at the end, but by that time we've learned to like Ricki enough to wish good things for her.

 

Questions For Discussion:

1)                  What was the big dream that didn't quite work out for you?  How did that affect your life?

2)                  Can broken relationships be repaired?

3)                  If you could sing in a cover band, what songs would you choose?

Dr. Ronald P. Salfen is the Supply Pastor, First Presbyterian Church, Kaufman, Texas