Mamie Gummer, left, and Meryl Streep in a scene from Ricki and The Flash.
Mamie Gummer, left, and Meryl Streep in a scene from Ricki and The Flash. Photo Bob Vergara

Movie Review: Ricki and The Flash

MAMIE Gummer plays out a less than harmonious relationship with mum Meryl Streep in Ricki and The Flash.

The drama, from Philadelphia director Jonathan Demme, follows aging rock musician Ricki (Streep) whose reconnection with her estranged ex-husband (Kevin Kline) and children is spurred on by her daughter Julie's (Gummer) devastating divorce.

Gummer's first scene in the film, when Julie is revealed in her depressed and dishevelled state, has her confront her mother like "a bat out of hell".

"I think most actresses want to play Ophelia. You want to play the crazy one," Gummer tells Weekend. "For me, it's been the permission to lash out and let loose parts of yourself - for the sake of society and humanity on a whole - you keep stamped down."

It's Gummer's first lead role opposite her real-life Oscar-winning mother, Streep. Gummer is best known for her starring role in the medical comedy Emily Owens MD, and supporting roles in Cake, Side Effects and The Big C.

"I've really only worked with her once before and I was just under two years old," she says. "The other film (Evening) we did we played the same character but we didn't have any interaction, so this really felt like the first time for me. It was great. It was easier than I could have expected or hoped for."

The details of Ricki's lengthy absence from her children's lives are slowly revealed as she awkwardly but somewhat successfully helps Julie out of her suicidal state.

Ricki and her ex Pete even confront Julie's unfaithful husband in a watershed moment in the family's reconciliation.

"The film tonally treads a line that was really interesting and fun to play between comedy and something really dangerous," Gummer says.

"I think there's an intrinsic connection and a longstanding desire on Julie's part for her mum. Even as angry as she is, she's still willing to try. I hope that's what the takeaway is; if there must be such a thing, just to try to pick up the phone and call your mum."

Streep is likely to be up for another slew of awards for her portrayal of Ricki, going so far as to spend six months on guitar lessons from masters including Neil Young.

The film features extended musical scenes of Ricki performing with her band The Flash, mostly at their home pub. NAustralian-born musician and actor Rick Springfield (famous for his hit song Jessie's Girl) plays her lead guitarist and love interest.

Not only does Streep play guitar proficiently, she sings too.

"When I saw the movie for the first time, I loved that it functions as almost like a concert film, which Jonathan Demme has some experience with doing these docos about bands," Gummer says.

"I love how he appreciates how music can bring people together in such a moving and honest way.

"This is a pretty dysfunctional family. You can't necessarily change who someone is but you can let it all go and dance together. You know, on occasion, that's all you can do really."

Ricki and The Flash opens nationally on Thursday.

Ricki and The Flash

Stars: Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline, Mamie Gummer, Rick Springfield.

Director: Jonathan Demme

Rating: PG

Reviewer's last word: This heartfelt film is part musical, part comedy and part family drama helmed by the incomparable Meryl Streep.

Star profile: Kevin Kline

Quirky fact: Kline is one of the few actors in history to receive the Academy Award for a comedic acting role for A Fish Called Wanda (1988).

Best known for: A Fish Called Wanda, Sophie's Choice, Wild Wild West.

If you like this movie you'll like these: August: Osage County, Treme, Trainwreck.

Quote: "I think every American actor wants to be a movie star. But I never wanted to do stupid movies, I wanted to do films. I vowed I would never do a commercial, or a soap opera - both of which I did as soon as I left the Acting Company and was starving."


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