I had to see this flick, cause you know — Meryl. And there was also Dr. Noah Drake, I mean Rick Springfield of “Jessie’s Girl” fame. How bad could it be? The good news is that it isn’t as bad as I’d heard. But it really isn’t what it could have been. Meryl plays the title character Ricki Rendazzo, formerly Linda Brummel of Indianapolis, now a long-in-the-tooth rock and roll singer with her own band called The Flash playing nightly at a locals bar in Tarzana, California. By day she is a cashier at a health food supermarket, and she can barely make ends meet, but she is content with her life. Then she gets a call from her ex. Her daughter is in trouble and she needs to come back to help. She hasn’t been there for her kids in years, so what could go wrong?
The daughter Julie is played by Streep’s own daughter Mamie Gummer, so the scenes between them have a natural emotional resonance. Julie’s husband has left her for another woman, and she is having a serious breakdown, and Ricki’s ex-husband’s wife (Audra McDonald) who has been there for Julie for the all years Ricki wasn’t is out of town taking care of her own sick father. Julie is not delighted to see her mom, but Ricki is able to help her get it together. Her relationship with her two sons is also not warm and fuzzy. One is recently engaged and the other gay, and she didn’t have a clue. Her decision to follow her dream and become a singer instead of embracing motherhood is the big issue that the movie skates around. Even in her romantic relationship with her lead guitarist (Rick Springfield) she is reticent to commit. But somehow, by the end, everybody is happy!
This isn’t a great film, but it is elevated by Meryl’s exuberant performance, and that of her daughter Mamie Gummer. Kevin Kline is wasted as the ex. And Rick Springfield needs to thank his lucky stars that he isn’t counting on more film roles to pay the bills. Sadly, the script by Diablo Cody (Juno, Young Adult) feels way too safe and the story is way too predictable. The musical covers played by Meryl and Rick are fun though, particularly if you are of a certain age (remember the 80s?) I wouldn’t recommend running out to see it in the theaters, but when it comes to your streaming service, if you’re looking for one step up from a TV drama, give it a go.