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Streep Makes ‘Ricki’ Watchable

Ricki_and_the_Flash_posterWell, I’ll give Meryl Streep credit: she is definitely incapable of phoning in a bad performance.

“Ricki and the Flash” [insert long sigh at that title] stars Streep as an aging rock star who goes back home and try and make things right with her estranged family. Kevin Kline and Streep’s real-life daughter Mamie Gummer also star, as Jonathan Demme directs and Diablo Cody writes.

The trailer for this film made me roll my eyes every time I saw it (which, based on my addiction to movie theaters, means I saw it at least four times). It seemed sappy and standard and above all else cliché, but I still ended up seeing it. If you’re wondering why I saw it, it’s a combination of the aforementioned addiction and my friend and I honestly saying to one another, “hey, wouldn’t it be hilarious if we saw a 10am Friday showing of that new Meryl Streep movie? Like, as an ironic statement? Ha!” (I’m pretty sure it was a game of chicken that both of us just didn’t call the other’s bluff on). Anyways, getting off track, where was I?

Oh, right. “Ricki and the Flash” [sigh]. After seeing the film, I can confirm that it is sappy and standard and naturally clichéd, but darn it does Meryl Streep make it mostly watchable.

It is a lazy and obvious statement, but just in case you’ve lived under a rock the past 50 years: Meryl Streep is very good at acting. Had she never gotten her big break in movies, she could have become a very successful lawyer, or quarterback of the New England Patriots (Brady zing). And here she plays a role we have seen a hundred times in movies yet her dedication to the character is admirable. Ricki is the typical free spirit, “I live for rock and roll!” American gal, and while you understand her kids’ resentment towards her for never being there for them, you also empathize with her because she was doing following what she considered her dream, and only now is realizing she made the wrong decision.

If all you wanted to see from this movie was some family drama and Meryl Streep sing some cover songs, then you can stop reading now because you’ll get exactly what you desired from this experience. Anyone else, continue on with me. The biggest problem I have with “Ricki” is that almost none of the conflicts in the film are resolved, and the ones that are are done so quickly without any true effort that it is almost annoying.

The trailer paints the plot as Ricki needing to go home because her daughter’s husband left her, and that is the case; for about 40 minutes. Then Ricki leaves and goes back to LA where she has a “will they-won’t they” (they will) relationship with her band’s guitarist (Rick Springfield). I just never bought how she could constantly emasculate him on stage in front of their 12 adoring bar fans and yet he still would want her (I may have oversold how big a deal Ricki and the Flash are; they play at a bar in front of the same dozen people every night. It’s not like she left her family and sold her soul for fortune and fame).

Demme, known for other small musical comedies like “Silence of the Lambs” and “Rachel Getting Married,” sometimes makes the musical performances distracting, but overall the film is shot nice and tight and he gives the actors plenty of room to breathe and move around.

Look, my friend and I were the only people in the theater without AARP cards, so clearly this film was not made with me in mind. If you love Streep, 70’s music, and all the conflict of feuding families without any of the rewarding resolutions, then “Ricki and the Flash” (seriously, they couldn’t think of a better title?) is the film for you. Streep will get her Golden Globe nomination and the film will be forgotten by the time the leaves begin to turn orange. Everyone can go home happy.

Critics Rating: 5/10

Meryl Streep


Take the Gamble with ‘Last Vegas’


            All too often when a movie has more than two big names, especially comedies, those big names phone in their performances and the result is a lackluster film. However sometimes, just as in Las Vegas, we can get a surprise. And that surprise comes in “Last Vegas”, a comedy starring Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Kline and Robert De Niro as four lifelong friends who get together in Las Vegas for Douglas’ bachelor party. Jon Turteltaub directs.  

Ever since “The Hangover” has massive success in 2009, numerous films have tried to copy its “wolf pack in Vegas” formula and it almost always end up being a poor film (including the third Hangover film itself). But “Last Vegas”, despite all of its clichés and familiar plot, is likable and fresh, and that is due in large part to the chemistry between the four leads.

It would have been very understandable if the actors all licked a stamp and mailed in their performances (heck, De Niro has been doing it for near ten years now). We’ve seen movies with many big comedy stars get together and make an unfunny product (here’s looking at you, “Couple’s Retreat”). But never once in “Last Vegas” did I get the feeling the Oscar-winning actors didn’t care about being there, and that really added to the amount of fun I had with the movie.

The one who stands out the most is Kevin Kline. He has the largest character arch playing a man whose wife is allowing him to cheat on her while in Vegas in an attempt to save their marriage (they explain it better in the movie, I swear) and he then faces moral decisions the rest of the film. And some of those decisions lead to very funny moments, including one quick one-liner that left the audience roaring.

Yes, there is one (or five) too many Viagra jokes, and you can only poke fun at Florida for being the place elderly people go to die so many times, but for the most part these jokes never get annoying, it’s just sometimes awkward when no one laughs. And of course it is clichéd and predictable and the ending is all lovey-dovey and you get force fed life lessons about love and trust and never forgetting who your friends are. Because what would a movie be without life lessons? Look at “This Is the End”: it taught us to never hang out with Michael Cera because we won’t get raptured.

I don’t know why I liked “Last Vegas” as much as I did, but I just found it likable and charming. The actors are clearly having a blast, and Vegas is always makes for a fun backdrop (you know, unless you’re watching “Hangover 3”). If you like the actors, enjoy laughing, or Viagra puns are your thing (hey, no judging), then “Last Vegas” fits the bill. Because you know the saying: what happens in Vegas…can end up being a pretty fun time at the movies, assuming it’s not Hangover 3.

Critics Rating: 7/10