Sat 10 Oct 2015
This may be the rock film of the year. Meryl Streep plays an aging supermarket cashier who spends her evenings playing Stones and U2 music in a club for a faithful audience of a few tens of people, many of them her age if not older. She has a history. She left her family, three kids, a comfortable life as the wife of a corporate executive about 25-30 years ago in order to follow her dream. Playing music. She does play music, but never could make a living out of it. She actually hardly makes ends. Then, the past calls. Her daughter goes through a divorce, tries to commit suicide. She is called on mother duty. She, who left mothership to fulfill a dream that never happened.
The film worked for me on several levels. Music is part of the life of the characters and there is good music in this film, and some of the best scenes are the ones filmed in the music club. Whoever played music or just loves music will immediately relate to the characters that play on stage and those who sit in the audience, vibrate at the sounds they like and are stoned while tunes that they do not like are played, jump and dance when the right music is played. To a certain extend the film is about the differences between the world of passion and the world of conventions and routine. But then it’s also a film about the relation between following individual happiness and sharing time and life with the family. Ricki in this film follows her dream and leaves everything behind. She could have been the happy rich wife of a corporate executive and live in a luxurious cottage in a privately guarded exclusive area, but chose a different path. This path practically failed, success did not come, she hardly meets ends, and never did a second disk. The highest price however is the broken relation with her children who grew to call another woman ‘mother’ and did not even bother to invite her to their weddings. She has just one thing to balance all these losses – her music. Will this be enough?
Need I say again that Meryl Streep is phenomenal? It seems nowadays that any role she plays is up to the Academy Awards nominations level, and this one is no exception. She also sings, and she also brings to screen the insecurity, the age and the dilemmas of the character. Mamie Gummer, Streep’s daughter in life is also her daughter on screen, and her creation is remarkable. It’s not easy to share screen with your own mother, and even less when the mother is Meryl Streep with all her charisma – yet Gummer’s Julie is alive and real, fighting her personal daemons and breaking gradually the wall of mis-communication between the two. Rick Springfield does the fine expected role especially when on stage and all the rockers club numbers are credible and emotional. One can see that director Jonathan Demme (of Philadelphia fame) loves music and is also well exercised in documentary. He made a film which looks a little conventional and melodramatic in it’s family drama part, but comes to life and is at best when it deals with music. Probably the best rock film of the year.