A woman named Linda leaves her family to pursue her dream of being a rock star. And she hasn't achieved the notoriety she hoped for. Her ex-husband calls her to tell her that her daughter suffered a breakdown because her husband left her. She goes back to Indianapolis. But her daughter doesn't exactly welcome her with open arms. But she stays and tries. And her sons also don't welcome her warmly. Written by
Revering the director and cast, as well as admiring the screenwriter of "Juno," I was shocked and pained by "Ricki and the Flash." A few gems have successfully combining music and drama without being a musical, especially "Once." Not this one.
"Ricki" should be showcased in a film school course called "Movies Gone Wrong." (If you are interested in this phenomenon, read the classic article by Pauline Kael about her witnessing the process of the making of "The Group.")
The dissection of this disappointing work starts with the script. The director should have either sent it back for rewrites or demanded a script doctor. Someone needed to rescue its relentlessly shapeless scenes, meandering plot lines, unnecessary throw-in details, half-conceived characters and contrived conflicts. This combination inevitably leads to a conclusion full of cheap sentimentality.
In more detail, one must next focus on the characters and their arcs. We'll stick with the center of the movie, Ricki, an aging rocker who plays with passion in a bar band. She had long ago abandoned her role as a mother and wife to pursue her singular musical goals. The movie and actress depicts her as a self-centered, thin-skinned, unapologetic, non-introspective mess. Who cares about someone who fails to demonstrates any kind of consistent attachment with her children? The filmmakers' choice is a dead end leading to a no-coming-back dramatic cliff.
They could have turned the character into a pioneer, one whose singular artistic drive might be off-putting, but whose uncompromising spirit inspires her children. In her arc, she re-balances her life, finds some humility, accepts responsibility for her neglect through action, but refuses to give up on her passion. She becomes a good enough mother, which is good enough for children. Her sons and daughter might settle for a parent who is flawed, but lovable and forgivable.
Instead, the script makes aging rocker Ricki insinuate herself into her ex's life and their shared children, a family that has been basically good enough with the usual dramas. Even if you introduce a severely depressed daughter, played by Mamie Gummer, there's no parallel between the mother's self-centered abandonment and her daughter's recoiling from a short-lived, failed marriage. Then (SPOILER ALERT, but one that's not that big0, it makes the recently bankrupt Ricki talk this depressed daughter into skipping her therapy session and getting indulged at a spa. It becomes a plot turning point, but it's based on a phony conflict. Why not see the therapist together, let the sparks fly, then heal their wounds with a spa treatment. Instead the next scene shows the mother and step-mother arguing over spa treatment versus therapy and uses it as a pretense to create a war between two strong-willed women. It results in drama reduced to a lifeless spat.
In the end, I found myself squirming over this self-indulgent movie, where the cast seems to be having much more fun than the audience, a cast hamstrung into depicting honest feeling in a phony, sentimentally contrived drama. We're left at the end watching essentially music videos by talented musicians that have no emotional resonance. It can make you turn your head away, embarrassed for this extremely talented A-list cast and crew.
12 of 16 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?