Friday, September 2, 2016

Ricki and the Flash

Year 8, Day 246 - 9/2/16 - Movie #2,441    

BEFORE: Meryl Streep carries over from "Heartburn", and so does her daughter, Mamie Gummer, who played her daughter in both films.  I know, it's a bit of a stretch.  But I've also got my unintended theme for this past week - family dysfunction.  From King Lear's ungrateful daughters to Barry Lyndon's bratty stepson, to the tension between Addie and her father-figure Moses in "Paper Moon". Then we had the tension between spouses in "Heartburn" and the wacko love-triangle in "Yentl", with a woman dressed as a man marrying a man's bride in his place, so that he could be with her later.  

Tonight, it's an absent mother returning back into her children's lives.  What a week it's been...

THE PLOT:  A musician who gave up everything for her dream of rock-and-roll stardom returns home, looking to make things right with her family.

AFTER: Another story based in real life, just like "Heartburn" - this film's writer, Diablo Cody, based the story on her mother-in-law.

I had a little trouble with the main character at first, largely because of her choice of music - why would she be covering songs by Tom Petty and the Rolling Stones, instead of singing her own songs?  Ah, but this in itself is somewhat insightful, she's not an A-list rocker, and the band is sort of a cover band, and she has to keep a day job at the grocery store to make ends meet.  So I'll allow it, even though it seems like a bit like a cheap way to get a bunch of rock songs that we all know into the film.  (Still, would the same band that covers Petty and the Stones have any interest in covering Lady Gaga and Pink?  I'm not sure...)

And if you're on the fence about Streep's ability to sing rock songs and play guitar, you can just tell yourself that perhaps the character is not supposed to be that talented, it's an easy out.  Her rock-star status is really there to create the reason why she left her family, and that's needed in turn to create the drama caused by her return.  And oh, what a lot of drama there is - primarily she comes back to help her daughter deal with a sudden divorce, but then there's the anger and resentment that comes to the surface, since she hasn't seen her children in what, 20 years or more?  

Getting together for a dinner with her sons only brings more family secrets to the surface, along with more anger, more resentment - and you wonder how bad this family's relationships are going to get before they start to improve.  

Still, there's a lot to like here - like the fact that Ricki's ex-husband is married to an African-American woman, and that's not any kind of issue at all.  That's notable and appreciated.  That one of Ricki's sons is gay and again, not a big deal, perfectly normal.  What's not cool is the sort of backwards politics that Ricki represents, when she can't quite wrap her head around the fact that her son is gay, and not bisexual.  Why the need to give her a bit of a conservative outlook?  She also speaks an aside or two while on stage against Obama, saying that "all the trouble" began in 2008.  I get that there are a few conservative rock stars, like Ted Nugent and Kid Rock, but this felt out of place for Ricki, especially considering her income level.  I would wager that most Republicans have more money in the bank.  Definite NITPICK POINT - why are the rich people in Indiana portrayed as hipstery, environmentally-friendly liberal Democrats, when the struggling rock star espouses the party line of the GOP?  

And I really liked the ending - wedding bands are nearly universally horrible, and it's nice to see some music played at a wedding that's relatively good.  Having a good time at a wedding isn't necessarily going to resolve this family's issues, but at least it's a start.  And here's a case where trying to fix everything with the power of rock music makes sense, unlike, say, "Star Trek Beyond".  Yeah, I'm still marveling at the hokey-ness of that one.     

Also starring Kevin Kline (last seen in "The Conspirator"), Rick Springfield (last seen in "Hard to Hold"), Audra McDonald (last seen in "Cradle Will Rock"), Sebastian Stan (last seen in "Ant-Man"), Nick Westrate, Hailey Gates, Ben Platt (last seen in "Pitch Perfect 2"), Charlotte Rae (last seen in "Bananas"), Rick Rosas, Joe Vitale, Bernie Worrell, Gabriel Ebert, with cameos from Bill Irwin (last heard in "Interstellar"), Diablo Cody.

RATING: 6 out of 10 tattoos

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