I am going to start with my inevitable disappointment with Ricki and the Flash movie. I think my issue starts with trying to see a movie with a blank mindset. I don’t look at the trailer, I don’t read the reviews of others.
Sometimes I find a gem and sometimes I hit garbage. I hated The Foxcatcher. I hated Into the woods. I hated Birdman. All of these movies have something in common, in addition to the hate I carry for them for making me waste 2h of my time. They have been critically acclaimed. People think that the drama is poignant. That the comedy moments are unique. They don’t think of the poor common-folk (me), who paid a good buck to see a movie on a Friday night.
This movie is about a failed musician who sings in bars and is asked to come and help and “be there” for her estranged daughter who was going though a tough divorce.
She takes off and sees her ex husband, her crazy ass daughter, her two boys who seem to like her but not actually have her anywhere near them, especially at the upcoming wedding of one of them’s. She feels good living the good life, staying in a nice mountain mansion, with private security and fluffy bath towels. She sees herself living there forever. Maybe taking her ex back, getting along with her daughter, living there permanently.
She takes her daughter out, she manages to get her clean and with a new haircut. She thinks that she can be a mother again.
That her daughter loves her and that deep down she always needed her mommy.
It does not matter that she ran away with the band abandoning her kids and her husband. All the past seems to be erased and she sees herself as “the cool mom” and wants a place with this new family.
Until the new wife gets back. Or should I say the real mom. I loved her (played by Audra McDonald) . She was such a contrast to the unrully, unkept, rocker-chick, I saw why her ex husband chose her.
She was SOLID.
Words of sense get spoken and while one is calm and demurred, the other looses her calm and starts throwing personal insults.
Ricki walks into the spare bedroom and practically jumps out of her towel. Maureen is sitting on the swivel chair by Pete’s computer desk.
“Hi. Can we talk?”
“I’m practically naked right now.”
“I have five sisters. I’ve seen a naked lady before.”
“I had a brother. ”
“So. As you know, we’re very concerned about Miss Julie.”
“She’s going to be all right. She’s always been a fighter.”
“She’s had to be. Right now we’re working with her doctor to stabilize her. She’s on some meds, and she’s been going to therapy as well. I don’t like her to miss a session.”
“I don’t think one’s that big of a deal…”
“I also understand that you gave her some marijuana last night?”
“No. Pete did. I mean, it’s Pete’s marijuana, for his headaches. Yes. W e did smoke some.(beat) It’s just a plant.”
“I know that. I’ve smoked a little in my time. But when a person’s body is adjusting to new medications, and they’re emotionally labile… ”
“Sorry. You know I’ve been a nurse for 100 years. Erratic. Unstable. ”
“I don’t think she’s being erratic.”
“Uh-huh. As I was saying…I just think maybe it’s not great for you to be here right now. You’re always welcome in our home, and I know Pete thought that it would help for Julie to see you, but I think what she needs right now is normalcy.”
“Well, I did get her out of those pajamas. I got her hair styled. I’d say she’s doing much better since I arrived.
“Hey, Linda, please don’t be offended. I’m just looking out for my kid.”
“She’s your kid too, of course. But Linda, let’s be real. The last time you lived with her, she was a little girl. I was there for the teen years, college…
“She went to college in Milwaukee.”
“Who do you think drove her ass there?”
Linda has no reply to this one.
“Who do you think helped her put together her dorm furniture? Who paid her bail when she got that DUI, or went to the Mother-Daughter Tea at that god-awful white sorority?”
Ricki is silent.
“Huh? Who do you think has been doing all the mom stuff all these years? Kids aren’t “done” once they leave grade school. They need someone to finish the job.
“I know that. I’m not a fool.”
“Look, I respect you as the women who gave her life, but once you went to L.A., those Christmas visits didn’t cut it. There was a hole in this family. I filled it.”
“No. You made it worse. I tried to come out here and see them more, but you always made it difficult. Yes, you did! You alienated my children from me, Maureen. You poisioned the relationship…”
As Ricki grows more agitated, Maureen remains calm.
“Are you serious right now? You know all those birthday and Mother’s Day gifts you got “from the kids”? I paid for those. I mailed them. I made sure the kids didn’t forget about you even though they had good reason to. You should be kissing my feet right about now.”
Maureen gets up, shaking her head.
“I didn’t want it to go like this.
Do you need help paying for a flight back?”
“You wish. ”
She tries to think of some way, any way, to retaliate.
“Pete is still in love with me. ”
Unruffled, Maureen laughs.
“I’ll let you have that. ”
Maureen walks out of the room.
Ricki returns to her ways and she realizes that she was indeed never there for her children, did not know a single thing about them. She was single and lonely and child-less as another, better woman has taken care of them while she was out “living the dream”.
Mothers are never forgiven for following their dreams, whereas we expect fathers to unapologetically chase their passions.
From her point of view, she did nothing wrong. She was an artist. She was making music, singing and did not have enough strength to be a mother too. And that’s why she left.
The rest of “Ricki and the Flash” revolves around Ricki’s relationship with Greg (played by real-life rocker, Rick Springfield.) He manages to turn her around after her bitter experience with the family back in Indianapolis. After Maureen invites Ricki to her son’s wedding, Greg makes the unlikely decision to sell his precious Gibson guitar to pay for the trip. With a dress from the thrift shop, her leather jacket and her braided hair – full hippie mode, she appears at this extravagant wedding (where even the invitations were so posh you could plant them and a tree would grow). She looks like the odd one out. People are staring and whispering behind her back and commenting that she was not even sitted with the family.
It’s awkward to watch and at points I was cringing for the horror unfolding on screen.
The divorced daughter almost ruins the wedding when she has to walk down the isle as the maid of honour and nearly turns around and runs. The movie ends on a good vibe as she decides to give her son the gift of her music and she plays on stage a “love, love, love” song from Bruce Springsteen that gets everyone dancing.
It ends on a happy note. The end.
Moral of the story: if you are a dead-beat-mom, do not expect to be treated like a mom 20 years into the future when you waltz back into your child’s life and expect recognition.
Second moral: some people are made for the life on the road, all booze and fun and no responsibility. They enjoy the artist life and they feel constrained by the rules of society and moral rights of rising children “the right way”. If you feel so inclined as to have a child in these circumstances, do not.
Weak movie, singing in every scene. Rocking it out but still… Merryl Streep must have been photoshopped on the poster as all her close ups showed a 60-year old woman with unnaturally high cheekbones. I found it cringeworthy (again) to watch her play a role of a 50-year old pretending to be a 20-year old. Some styles are not meant for the old.