Ricki And The Flash

Relationships between parents and their adult children can be difficult. Particularly if a parent is in California playing in a bar band while her kids are in the Midwest where they rarely hear from their mother.

Ricki, real name Linda (Meryl Streep), is long divorced from Paul (Kevin Kline). Their daughter Julie (Mamie Gummer, Streep’s real life daughter) is having a breakdown because her husband has left her. Ricki comes back home to provide motherly support.

The contrast between Ricki’s life and that of her ex is stark. She lives in a modest apartment in the San Fernando Valley; he lives in an upscale, gated community in Indianapolis. She has a boyfriend who’s in the band, Greg (Rick Springfield). Paul has a second wife, Maureen (Audra McDonald) who’s been a responsible, loving stepmother during Ricki/Linda’s absence.

The visit to help her daughter through her crisis is somewhat successful. There’s a funny but sadly awkward family dinner at a restaurant where Ricki/Linda reconnects with her two sons and revisits old family emotional wounds. Before she heads back to California, Maureen vents about Ricki/Linda’s abandonment of motherly responsibilities.

Back in the Valley, Ricki keeps rocking while she works on her relationship with Greg. Maureen makes a peace offering to Ricki and an opportunity for redemption. Screenwriter Diablo Cody of Juno and Young Adult script fame brings a too neat but acceptable ending.

Director Jonathan Demme, who directed entertaining concert films Stop Making Sense (Talking Heads) and Heart of Gold (Neil Young), devotes too much of the movie’s runtime to musical performances. Meryl Streep is a passable bar band singer but the performances are merely okay, not special.

The acting performances are better. Kline and McDonald (both of whom did not sing in RATF despite solid cred) are excellent. Streep, obviously enjoying working with her daughter, is having fun in a less-serious-than-the-usual-Meryl-role role. Gummer is good as a woman with more issues than impending divorce. Rick Springfield rocks a guitar but his acting abilities are on a lower plain than those of his cast mates.

Ricki and The Flash is an okay movie that will resonate with Streep’s boomer fans. This is a movie that could’ve/should’ve been better.

 

 

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I’ll See You In My Dreams

As cool as it is to see a 72-year-old woman and a 70-year-old man as the stars of the light romantic comedy I’ll See You In My Dreams, the story is more like one from a romance novel than one from real life.

Don’t get me wrong: ISYIMD is a sweet, fun movie. But much of it does not ring true.

Carol (Blythe Danner, Gwyneth Paltrow’s mom) is a slim, attractive 70-something whose flirtations with a much younger pool boy (Martin Starr) seem to stir her libido. Then, when complete stranger Bill (Sam Elliott) smiles and pays a passing compliment in the grocery store, things begin simmering.

A nudge from her bridge buddies (Rhea Perlman, June Squibb and the wonderful Mary Kay Place) brings her to a senior speed-dating event, which provides chuckles and eye rolls (plus a quick scene with Max Gail of Barney Miller fame). A later chance encounter with smiling Bill leads to a dinner date and fast-moving romance.

Here’s what doesn’t compute. Carol claims that she’s been uninterested in dating, sex, etc. since her husband died twenty years earlier. That’s hard to buy, considering her appearance and comfortable station in life. Likewise, Bill says he, after his wife left him, cashed in his investments, moved to California and bought a boat. Yet he, too, (he claims) has had nothing going romantically for a while.

For some women, Elliott’s squinty gaze, his bushy moustache, his sly smirk of a smile, his very long unlit cigar and that incredible Dodge-truck-selling voice will be enough to incite a fantasy or two. For some men, Danner’s beauty and figure at 70+ will be a turn on. As the pool boy tells her when they first met, “You don’t look that old.”

I’ll See You In My Dreams features Danner delivering a respectable performance of classic torch ballad Cry Me A River at a karaoke bar. The funniest sequence in the movie involves the four bridge buddies inhaling a bit of medical marijuana and heading out to the grocery store for munchies.

A flaw of I’ll See You In My Dreams is it plods along at a casual pace for the first hour or so, then suddenly sets about to resolve things in a hurry. The film clocks in right at 90 minutes.

For moviegoers of a certain age who sit at home and complain that all the new romantic movies are about young people, stop complaining. Go see this movie! Danner and Elliott look great together and the other cast members add just enough spice to make ISYIMD an amusing reason to head to the theatre.