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Times of India
Ricki (Streep) left her home, family and a life of luxury a long time ago in order to pursue her dream of becoming a rock star. She gets a call one day from her ex-husband Pete (Kline) who informs her that their daughter is depressed after a breakup. When Ricki arrives home, she realizes she has a lot of ground to cover in terms of catching up with her family.
Even when off the stage and not singing cover versions with her band in a tiny pub to a small but appreciative audience, Ricki (her real name's Linda) remains in black leather. She slurs and sways in Keith Richards-like rocker fashion and looks totally out of place in Pete's sprawling, tastefully-furnished home. Pete however, has long since moved on with a new wife, Maureen (McDonald), who treats Pete and Ricki's children as if they were her own.
Regardless of her rockstar accoutrements, Ricki's maternal instincts kick in as she spends time with her daughter Julie (Gummer). Julie went into a tailspin after her husband left her. She's also pretty pissed off with Linda for not being around and flatly tells Linda that her rocker chic makes her look like a cheap hooker.
In time, the mother and daughter do bond, thanks to a lot of TLC from Linda, who also didn't know that one of her sons is gay and that the other son will soon marry.
Linda knows however, that while Ricki is her stage name, it's more than just a persona; it is her life and soul. Streep's presence in Ricki elevates what could have been a fairly ordinary family drama into something that is refreshingly different.
The performances are mostly solid. Real-life rocker Springfield plays Ricki's bandmate and lover. And Gummer's screen presence is credible and good. Some of the film's best scenes involve her. But by the end of the film, you might find yourself wondering if Streep (she plays and sings for real here) really is in a rock n' roll band on the side. Yes, she's that convincing.
“Everyone has part of their past they wish they could change,” says director Jonathan Demme, who takes the helm of the new film Ricki and the Flash. Ricki, brought to unforgettable life by Meryl Streep, is a guitar-shredding, hard-rocking mama, filled with regret for the mistakes of her past, who now has a chance to make things right. “When Ricki sees her daughter in desperate straits,” Demme adds, “she understands that it’s a chance for a certain kind of redemption, and she’s going to make good on all of the bad choices she made in her past.”
Playing this role offered Streep the chance to be paired in scenes with her actress daughter, Mamie Gummer (Cake, Side Effects). A mother-daughter story at its core, the real-life frisson that results gives the film added potency. Demme insisted that the two not talk outside of the scenes. Very close in real life, their estrangement on film is as palpable as their resemblance. True genetics adds a rare level of reality to the film.
Streep says that part of the reason for the distance between the mother and daughter characters are because they are so alike. “I think they’re both quick to rise to a fight,” says Streep. “They both see things as outsiders; they both see themselves as the truth teller. The apple doesn't fall far. They both live their truth, no apologies.”
So, though Streep was the first, best, and only choice to play the role, she would have to learn to play guitar to bring Ricki to life. Demme’s vision for the film, from the very beginning, was to make the band real. “With this kind of character-driven film, we have to make people feel like it’s real,” he says. “It never occurred to me to do anything other than make the band real. The customary thing is that the band pretends to play, and you overlay a previously-recorded, perfect track, but I didn’t want to do that – I wanted this great band, with Meryl at the center, to really get out there and play.
Streep, already a talented singer, trained for months to play the guitar. “To begin with, I started learning on an acoustic guitar with a teacher in New York and then moved to the electric guitar about a month later,” Streep explains. “Then I worked pretty much every day with Neil Citron, who is this genius guitar teacher. He put the Telecaster in my hands and taught me a lot of little tricks that rock ‘n’ rollers use, bar chords, quick changes and stuff like that.”
She says that she found the electric guitar easier to play, “but your mistakes are much louder. With an acoustic, you get away with it. With an electric, you have to be really committed to that bad note because it’s ringing through the hall! It was such a lot of fun.”
“The part of Greg is definitely dual-purpose,” says Demme. “We needed a terrific actor capable of going toe-to-toe with Meryl Streep, but also an authentic shredder. I was worried about finding a great Greg. The assignment to our great casting directors, Bernard Telsey and Tiffany Little Canfield, was to find any actor who can play guitar and might have the capacity to step up. Find anyone in that age range – I’ll see anybody. And then Rick Springfield came in, we meet him, he’s very nice – and then he plugs in and he’s amazing.”
Later, Springfield had a second meeting with Streep – a meeting to ensure that the two actors would have chemistry together. “All of this authentic warmth comes out of him – he got Meryl to open up to stuff that she hadn’t known was there yet. He came in knowing that he would be fantastic in this part – it was an exciting opportunity to play opposite Meryl Streep, to be a band member but also play a very complicated character beyond that,” says Demme. “When he left, we thought, ‘Oh my God, we have just found the greatest Greg of all.’”
Interestingly enough, Springfield and his character share a love for a very specific instrument. “In the script, Greg had a ‘68 SG. I actually have a ‘69 SG – I bought it new in 1970 and it’s been with me ever since. It was my main guitar on my first albums, and I played it and wrote a lot of my early songs on it, including ‘Jessie’s Girl.’ So it’s a very important guitar to me. I mentioned that to Jonathan, and he said, ‘Oh, we’ve got to use it.’ It was an instant connection for me to that guitar.”
Joining Springfield to portray The Flash are three legendary sidemen. Bernie Worrell, a founding member of Parliament-Funkadelic, who also worked with Talking Heads and is a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, plays keyboards. Rick Rosas – a/k/a “Rick the Bass Player” – who played with Neil Young, Joe Walsh, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Rivers, Ron Wood, and Etta James, who died late last year shortly after completing filming and Joe Vitale, a longtime collaborator of Joe Walsh and the original touring drummer for Crosby, Stills & Nash, on drums.
“Learning guitar was fun, but it was a private enterprise and then all of a sudden Jonathan said, ‘We’re going to get two weeks and the band’s going to get together.’ I thought, two weeks?! Two weeks to become a band?” Streep recalls.
Meryl Streep and Mamie Gummer are mother and daughter in real life too.
While Meryl was pregnant with daughter Mamie, she starred in the film Sophie's choice along with Kevin Kline. In this movie, Mamie plays Meryl and Kline's daughter.
Diablo Cody has a cameo in the film.
We initially see Ricki playing with her band in a club that while homely, does look a bit like a dive bar. However, the band and she are tight and sound good. Not long after, she gets a call from her ex-husband, after when she sets out to go to his home. But before that, a recap. Ricki took the bold move of chasing her dreams of becoming a famous rock star by abandoning her family. She is however, not even remotely as famous as she probably hoped and, while still kitted out in rockstar gear that looks like it came out from the 1980's. She stays in a poky apartment and survives on fried food. She is not even remotely as successful as Pete.However, she now gets a chance to make amends with her family who are in Indianapolis. More than anything though, it is her duty to help Julie, who was actually suicidal, get through her divorce. Her husband had left her barely a few weeks into her marriage, for another woman who had kids of her own.
When she Ricki is not on stage (her real name is Linda, and that is what her family calls her) she works as a cashier to pay the bills. So, despite being really short of cash (read: broke), she heads on over to Indianapolis to help sort out things. As expected, her daughter is hostile towards her. So too are her two sons, who are hostile and unwelcoming. One is gay and the other recently became engaged, though no one told their mother. Still, Ricki gets through to Julie. Unfortunately, her husband's second wife, Maureen, returns unexpectedly, confronting Ricki with some hard truths, such as the fact that Linda was never there for the kids and that the correspondence between her kids and her was engineered by Maureen. She wasn't there for her children when they needed her and Maureen was. Ashamed, Ricki returns to her band in California angry and bitter, insulting her guitarist who is in love with her. He makes her realize he cares and they make love. Maureen sends Ricki an invitation to the son's wedding as an olive branch, but Ricki can't afford to go. Her boyfriend sells his best guitar to pay for the tickets. Despite her attempts at reconciliation, it's clear she's still an outsider. The wedding guests look askance at Ricki when she gets up to toast the bride and groom. As her gift, having no money, she has her band take over and play for the guests. Her son and his bride start the wedding dance and slowly the guests join in.
GOOD FOR WATCHING............................................................................................ ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
Meryl Streep absolutely rocks in whatever role she essays!!