The movie opens with Meryl Streep stomping on stage, singing Tom Petty’s “American Girl”, and as far as I’m concerned, the movie could have ended there, and I’d have gone home happy. She is Ricki Randazzo, a grocery-store clerk by day and guitar-wielding rocker in a bar band at night. In another life, she was Linda Brummell, suburban wife and mother of three; a life she abandoned when she chased her dreams of rock and roll stardom. Then, she gets a call from her ex- husband Pete (Kevin Kline) about her daughter, and is pulled back into her old life and the family she left behind.

Ricki comes home to a lukewarm reception from her ex-husband, while her daughter Julie (Mamie Gummer) is openly hostile. While the premise of the movie sounds fairly predictable, writer Diablo Cody’s sharp, witty dialogue and well- rounded characters save the movie from going down the same road as its predecessors. The return of the prodigal mother is played out with some clever, insightful writing in the scenes between Ricki and her three children- Adam, Josh and Julie.

Meryl Streep is the star of the movie and boy, does she shine through. While it would have been easier to condemn her character, Streep’s  sympathetic portrayal of Ricki as a free spirit full of self-recrimination, wins the audience over. She is supported by cast of strong actors like Kevin Kline, Rick Springfield (who plays a guitarist in The Flash, and later her boyfriend),  Audra McDonald (as Pete’s wife and the woman who raised Ricki’s children) among others. 

One of the highlights of the movie are the scenes between Ricki and Julie, played by Streep’s real-life daughter, Mamie Gummer.  Their ease with each other and natural chemistry in playing the roles of mother-daughter, are truly a delight to watch. 

Writer Cody’s talent for prickly family confrontations is brought to the fore with a brilliant scene- the awkward, dysfunctional family dinner- where she surprises us by downplaying the drama and introducing flashes of humor. If there is one flaw in the film, it’s that it’s a half hour too short. Just when you want to see more of the characters, the movie ends.

This isn’t a movie about a rock and roll star. It’s about a person who happens to be a musician. But the music is still a huge part of the film. We all know that Meryl Streep can sing; she’s proven it time and again. But that wasn’t enough; she needed to be rock and roll. So she learned to play the guitar from no less a personage than Neil Young and co-star Rick Springfield (who doesn’t remember his hit song, Jessie’s Girl), then added a bit of Streep swagger and thus, a rocker was born. In a film full of great music, my favorite musical moment of the movie was the three-time Oscar winner belting out a rock version of Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance”.

Why You Should Watch This Movie: 

Ricki and The Flash is an unexpected combination of humor and emotions.  Fans of Meryl Streep will enjoy her newest avatar, her chemistry with her daughter and her incredible musical performances. A must-watch, if only to hear her sing Lady Gaga.