“Ricki and the Flash”: Meryl Steep back in the Oscar hunt once again?

Ricki and the Flash Meryl Streep
It’s basically a joke in Hollywood (one made at last year’s Academy Awards, in fact) that whenever Meryl Streep makes a movie she gets an Oscar nomination for it. The only exceptions tend to be when she veers more towards lighter fare, but this week she’ll challenge that notion with Ricki and the Flash, a musically tinged dramedy that sees her going for laughs as well as emotion. Working with director Jonathan Demme and writer Diablo Cody, Streep gets to exercise some new muscles, which is always appreciated. It might not be the next big awards vehicle for her, but it’s one of her more entertaining roles in some time.

The film is centered on rocker Ricki Randazzo (Streep), who used to be Linda, a mother and wife. She ended the marriage, moved to California, and started the band Ricki and the Flash. Success has eluded her so far, though she’s in a happy relationship with her lead guitarist (Rick Springfield). She’s summoned back to her old life by ex husband Pete (Kevin Kline) when her eldest child Julie (Mamie Gummer, Streep’s real life daughter) has a breakdown. Now back with her family and dealing with old wounds, she attempts to be a bit more of a mother than she’s ever been. The movie is light on plot, but it ends up coming together well by the end. As previously mentioned, Demme directs and Cody writes, with the rest of the cast including Hailey Gates, Bill Irwin, Audra McDonald, Ben Platt, Charlotte Rae, Sebastian Stan, and Nick Westrate. It’s never overly amazing, but it’s fairly cute throughout.

What might help Ricki and the Flash appeal to the Academy is the combination of the acting and just the happy feeling that it leaves you with. Obviously, Streep is a big selling point, but I’d argue Kline and Springfield are just as good. Streep gets to perform covers of full songs, which is impressive, but Kline in many ways is the glue holding not just the cinematic family, but the movie itself, together. As for Springfield, he’s shockingly good, especially when he has to work against Streep, which is often. Cody and Demme have appealed to Oscar before (as has Kline), so working with Streep could potentially get them back to that realm again.

Awards wise, there’s definite possibilities here. If I’m underestimating its appeal, we could see Best Picture, Best Director (for Demme), Best Actress (for Streep), Best Supporting Actor (for Kline and/or Springfield), Best Supporting Actress (for Gummer), Best Original Screenplay (for Cody), and Best Original Song. Realistically, I’d assume that it’s mostly just Actress (Streep), Original Screenplay (Cody), and Original Song or bust, with only the tech category potentially safe. The tune happens to be great and essential to the flick, so that’s a boon. I have my doubts that Picture can be in play, but if Streep winds up as more than just a filler nominee, anything could be possible. She definitely can get nominated, but I highly doubt she’ll win for this.

I can’t say for certain how voters will feel about Ricki and the Flash later on this year, but audiences can start seeing how they feel about the flick starting tomorrow in theaters everywhere. It’s a solid film, good but not great, so that could limit its Oscar appeal, but many a smaller/mainstream player has held on longer throughout the awards season than expected, so you can’t say for sure yet. The only thing I know is that you can’t count Streep out for this one. It’s well worth seeing, especially if you’re a fan of hers, so give it a shot and stay tuned to see how the Academy deals with it at the end of the year…

Be sure to check out Ricki and the Flash this weekend!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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