This photo provided by courtesy of Sony Pictures shows, Meryl Streep, as Ricki, performing at the Flash at the Salt Well in TriStar Pictures' "Ricki and the Flash." The movie opens in U.S. theaters on Aug. 7, 2015. (Bob Vergara/Sony Pictures via AP)

This photo provided by courtesy of Sony Pictures shows, Meryl Streep, as Ricki, performing at the Flash at the Salt Well in TriStar Pictures' "Ricki and the Flash." The movie opens in U.S. theaters on Aug. 7, 2015. (Bob Vergara/Sony Pictures via AP)

Reeling it in: Strong finish for ‘Ricki and the Flash’

“Ricki and the Flash”

Sony Pictures

1 hour, 41 minutes

Meryl Streep is one of those actresses — no, you don’t need me to tell you about Meryl Streep any more than you need me to explain who Steven Spielberg is. And starting a sentence is “Meryl Streep is one of those actresses” is a fallacy in itself because there are no actresses like Meryl Streep.

After a career spanning four decades, it’s pretty obvious that she is at the top of her game. You never see her phoning it in for a quickie paycheck role. Or maybe you do and we just don’t recognize it because a “phoned in” Streep performance is equal to a career high for most other actors.

The problem with being as good as Meryl Streep is that there is no way that every movie you’re in can possibly measure up. Imdb lists her filmography at over 70 roles, and trust me, they’re not all winners. And for a while, I thought this week’s latest, “Ricki and the Flash,” was going to fall into that column, but about halfway through the film it’s like everyone woke up and said, “Hey — we got Meryl Streep to be in this! Let’s step it up!”

Streep stars as the titular Ricki, Whole Foods checker by day, rocker by night — a woman who, 20-some-odd years ago left her family for a career in the music business and, though she never made it big, is at least living the life she wants. She and her band, The Flash, headline a mid-level bar and have for the past decade and a half, playing mostly covers with an original composition or two thrown in.

Lately, in order to cater to a small younger crowd, the band has had to lower themselves by mixing in Lady Gaga or Pink into their repertoire. Ricki’s dating the guitarist in the band, Greg, played well by Rick Springfield, but she’s conflicted about it. These small indignities aside, Ricki feels she’s got it all figured out. That is, until her ex-husband calls to say Ricki’s grown daughter, going through an ugly divorce, is in trouble.

Hopping on a plane, Ricki steps back into a world she thought she’d left behind and discovers that the past is never in the past.

“Ricki and the Flash” is problematic, but mostly in the first half. Streep, who learned to play guitar for this role, shines in the rock ‘n roll performances, but is pretty unlikeable otherwise. This isn’t a knock on the performance — just about everyone is unlikeable in the first half of the film, and is probably more a criticism of Diablo Cody’s uneven script.

As the ex, Kevin Kline does a fine job, but feels like he’s trying to hard to be quiet and reasonable in the face of Ricki’s chaotic personality. Mamie Gummer, Streep’s real-life daughter, here playing Ricki’s troubled daughter Julie, does a great job, but doesn’t really rouse the film out of its doldrums. About halfway through, however, when Ricki turns a corner and starts to really live — starts being nice to Greg, starts being reasonable instead of obnoxious — the film picks up. By the end, there are tears of joy in the audience and the movie leaves you feeling better than when you came in.

That’s not to say it’s great or anything, but it does wrap up well.

The music in the film is where “Ricki” really shines. The band The Flash consists of not only Springfield, but also Rick Rosas, former bassist for Neil Young and just about everyone else of his generation, Joe Vitale, the road drummer for the Eagles, and rock ‘n roll hall-of-famer Benny Worrell on the keyboard. Watching them play, fronted by Streep, who naturally puts her all into it, was a joy.

Streep also has a beautiful scene where she sings and plays an original from the film, “Cold One,” that is really very nice. That scene, incidentally, rescues us from one of the biggest cliches going in Hollywood right now, namely the “let’s have old people get high as comedic relief” bit.

“Ricki and the Flash” is not subtle. It’s script is manipulative, heavy-handed, and fairly unsophisticated. The enjoyable second half lays it on thick and some may balk at the way the film is playing at your emotions. But all movies do that, to some extent. That’s the contract we make with movies. “I’ll suspend my disbelief and you make me feel something.”

Some movies do it better than others, but for a movie like “Ricki,” it was welcome. I can’t say I loved the film, but I liked it in the end, and at the very least it gives me another reason to be amazing by the incomparable Meryl Streep.

Grade: B-

“Ricki and the Flash” is rated PG-13 for language and drug use.

Chris Jenness is a freelance graphic designer, artist and movie buff who lives in Nikiski.

More in Life

Frenchy Vian, who posed for many photographs of himself, was acknowledged as a skilled hunter. (Photo courtesy of the Viani Family Collection)
Unraveling the story of Frenchy, Part 2

In fact, Frenchy’s last name wasn’t even Vian; it was Viani, and he and the rest of his immediate family were pure Italian

File
Minister’s Message: Share God’s love even amidst disagreement

We as a society have been overcome by reactive emotions, making us slow to reflect and quick to speak/act and it is hurting one another

This image shows the cover of Juneau poet Emily Wall’s new book “Breaking Into Air.” The book details a wide array of different birth stories. (Courtesy Photo)
A book is born: Juneau author releases poetry book portraying the many faces of childbirth

It details “the incredible power of women, and their partners”

Lemongrass chicken skewers are best made on a grill, but can be made in the oven. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion
On the strawberry patch: Tangling with waves

Lemon grass chicken skewers top off a day in the surf

This photo of Frenchy with a freshly killed black bear was taken on the Kenai Peninsula in the early 1900s. (Photo courtesy of the Viani Family Collection)
Unraveling the story of Frenchy, Part 1

The stories were full of high adventure — whaling, mining, polar bear hunting, extensive travel, and the accumulation of wealth

File
Seeing God’s hand in this grand and glorious creation

The same God of creation is the God that made me and you with the same thoughtfulness of design, purpose and intention

Chewy and sweet the macaroons are done in 30 minutes flat. (Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
Sophisticated, simplified

When macarons are too complicated, make these delicious, simple macaroons

Michael S. Lockett / capital city weekly
Gigi Monroe welcomes guests to Glitz at Centennial Hall, a major annual drag event celebrated every Pride Month, on June 18.
Packed houses, back to back: GLITZ a roaring success

Sold-out sets and heavy-hitting headliners

Michael Armstrong / Homer News 
Music lovers dance to Nervis Rex at the KBBI Concert on the Lawn on July 28, 2012, at Karen Hornaday Park in Homer.
Concert on the Lawn returns

COTL line up includes The English Bay Band, a group that played in 1980

Marcia and Mary Alice Grainge pose in 1980 with a pair of caribou antlers they found in 1972. The sisters dug the antlers from deep snow and detached them from a dead caribou. (Photo provided by Marcia Grainge King)
Fortune and misfortune on the Kenai — Part 2

In Kasilof, and on Kachemak Bay, in Seldovia and later in Unga, Petersen worked various jobs before being appointed deputy marshal in 1934