How Meryl became a badass in black leather
Meryl Streep is no stranger to transformation; She has played a British PM, a Grimm witch, the fearsome editor of a fashion magazine, an iconic chef, among others. So, it was little surprise to know she’d play a rocker in Ricki and the Flash. The Academy Award winning actress plays the titular character in the movie, who abandons her family to pursue her dream of becoming a rock n’ roll star in LA. When that doesn’t happen she ends up bagging groceries in a supermarket by day and playing classic rock covers with her band in a bar at night.
So, rock music isn’t the leading star of the movie, but it makes a hell of a co-star. Ricki may be an aging bar band rocker, but the old girl’s got a set of pipes on her; Streepmore than keeps up with the singing, but transforming into a tattooed, leather-clad, messy-haired guitarist took a bit more work. She needed to learn to play the electric guitar, and play it credibly. And so, Neil Young stepped in to teach her the essentials, proving that when two legends get together, you get nothing but awesomeness. For a little extra help, she had co-star Rick Springfield (who plays fellow band member and her boyfriend) step in on set. Though, to hear him tell it, Meryl Streep needed no help to rock.
Streep’s Ricki is backed on stage by The Flash. Though far from being a two-bit bar band, The Flash is populated with actual musicians. There’s the guitarist Greg, played byRick Springfield, the guy who gave us the exceedingly hummable, “Jessie’s Girl”. Also in the band are Joe Vitale (a seasoned musician who has worked with artists likeJohn Lennon, Eagles, Beach Boys and others) on drums, Bernie Worrell (Parliament-Funkadelic) on keyboards and Rick Rosas (who has played with Neil Young,Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Etta James and others) as Buster, the bassist.
Bringing together a dream team of rockers was director Jonathan Demme’s first step towards making the film’s soundtrack authentic. He then had Streep and the band record and film all the songs live, something that added a degree of rawness and genuine intimacy to the movie.
The soundtrack includes classics like Tom Petty’s “American Girl”, Sam the Sham & the Pharoahs’ “Woolly Bully” and Dobie Gray’s “Drift Away” among others.
U2’s “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” is an oddly apt way to introduce Ricki.
Enjoy the soundtrack here.
Bruce Springsteen’s “My Love Will Not Let You Down” is a perfectly placed finale song, guaranteed to leave you smiling and misty-eyed. You’d have to watch the movie to enjoy the moment yet check it out here.
A surprise find is Meryl Streep’s acoustic, emotional rendition of the original track “Cold One”. You can catch that little snippet here
Watching the multiple Oscar winner belt out rock versions of Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” and Pink’s “Get the Party Started” rank among the highlights of the movie.
The movie does leave you somewhat regretful that Streep isn’t the rock goddess in real life too and her band isn’t out there performing everyday.