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.

 

 

“Young Adult”—(Grow Up, Already!)

The lead character in “Young Adult” is not especially likable. The movie, though, has a lot to like.

We all know people who have moved from a small town to a big city, enjoyed some career success and felt somehow superior to those back home. When they return home, they are sometimes amazed to see folks who are satisfied with their simple small town lives.

Charlize Theron plays Mavis. She’s a divorced writer of young adult novels who leaves Minneapolis to return to her small hometown in outstate Minnesota. Turns out she was a bit of a jerk to most of her classmates in high school. She is not exactly welcomed back with open arms.

Her goal is to reunite with her old hometown boyfriend who is now married and a new dad. She also encounters the class nerd at a bar in the hometown. Patton Oswalt gives an award-worthy performance as the nerd, who becomes a drinking buddy of Mavis.

Another character in the movie is the fictional small town of Mercury, Minnesota. Unlike Garrison Keillor’s fantasy Minnesota town of Lake Wobegon, Mercury has undergone the same transformations many American small towns have experienced. Diablo Cody wrote the script and offers commentary on the fast food chains that dominate the main drag and the attitudes of those who live in Mercury, either by choice or lack of choice.

There are some good laughs in “Young Adult.” Charlize Theron, not exactly known for comedy, can bring it.

The movie also serves up a memorable and seriously flawed character in Mavis. Will you feel sorry for her or will you feel she deserves all her fates? That’s for discussion on the way home from the movie.

The movie is directed by Jason Reitman of “Up in the Air,” “Thank You For Smoking” and “Juno” fame. He again delivers a trademark cool title sequence. “Young Adult,” like those listed, is funny, but also shares viewpoints on modern American life that stay with you after the credits roll.