Okay, let’s be upfront – this is not a great movie, but hell, there is still lots to enjoy in the latest movie by director Jonathan Demme, written by Diablo Cody (of Juno fame) and starring the ever wonderful Meryl Streep.
Let’s get the negatives out of the way first. It’s a paper thin story, with little character development, an unrealistic feel good ending and an overall flatness. It is as though the awkwardness of the situation – absent Mother returning to help out resentful children – has infected the whole tone of the movie and somehow, despite the stellar cast, the film just does not gel.
But now to the positives. First and foremost we have the music. Meryl Streep, in her black leather jacket, leggings, chains, braided hair and bad eye makeup, more than holds her own within this band of ageing rockers, who as it turns out (I’ve been doing my homework) are all ridgey didge. There is of course our very own Rick Springfield (who on earth doesn’t know ‘Jessie’s Girl’?!) who can play a lick or two. On bass is Rick Rosas, who played with Neil Young amongst others (Rosas died not long after the film was made, and it is in fact dedicated to him). The drummer is a chap called Joe Vitale, who had his own band, and on keyboard is Bernie Worrell, from the funk, soul, rock band Parliament-Funkadelic ( look it up, I had to!). The songs are where the movie comes alive, and your toes start tapping. They feel real, and I’m led to believe they were recorded live. However, rocking aside, one of the nicest moments is when Ricki/Meryl sings one of her own songs, accompanying herself on guitar, to her daughter and ex.
Then there is the chance to see Meryl go head to head with her real life daughter, Mamie Gummer. She literally roars into the movie, seething with rage, but goes on to show the grief that she feels at the breakup of her marriage. It is also fun to discover Ricki is a card carrying Republican, complete with the American flag tattooed on her back and snide asides about the current President.
Kevin Kline does a nice job of the buttoned down ex, happily living in his gated community with his second wife, yet still carrying a fondness for the wild woman that is the mother of his children. And the aforesaid second wife (played by Audra McDonald, who is also a singer as well as an actress) also manages to avoid most of the usual cliches.
Three stars – I defy you to leave without a smile on your face and a song on your lips.