Thursday, July 14, 2016

Tarzana Nights

Ricki and the Flash (2015) is a roll and roll movie - it announces this from the start, with a bar band playing Tom Petty's American Girl. The cool part is, it's Meryl Streep singing. And she's great.

She's all dressed up in silver, leather, and lace with half of her hair in braids, looking very Rock. Her band, get this, is:
  • Drummer Joe Vitale, ex of Joe Walsh's Barnstorm, among many others
  • Rick "the Bass Player" Rosas, who played with Crazy Horse and CSN&Y, to name a few. He has long gray hair, the face of an ancient Indian, and a calm center. He died before the movie was completed and it is dedicated to him.
  • Bernie Worrell on keyboards. He co-founded Parliament/Funkadelics and played with the Talking Heads on their deepest albums. He has since passed on, just last month. He is the reason we watched this, although he has no lines.
  • Lead guitar: Rick Springfield! Looking rugged as heck with a nice beard - kind reminded me of Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart.
Streep plays Ricki Randazzo (named after Teddy Randazzo, who wrote Can't Take My Eyes Off of You?), who has been playing to tiny crowds at a dive bar in Tarzana. She has a day job at a Whole Paycheck store, and is perpetually broke. But one day, she answers a call from her ex-husband. Her daughter, from her past life in Indianapolis, has gotten divorced and is very depressed. So she goes "home".

Her ex- is Kevin Klein, looking somewhat like Michael Palin. He is a rich white guy with a boring job and a black wife who is out of town. He loves his daughter and can be civil to Ricki, even enjoy her company - but stays pretty guarded. Their daughter is Mamie Gummer, Streep's real life daughter, who looks like hell in this. She does a good job playing pissed off and depressed. Old wounds are dragged up, limited reconciliation is achieved, the new wife shows some class and gets some digs in, and it all ends with a wedding (so this is technically a comedy).

The non-Flash parts of the movie are fine - light melodrama, I guess. But my favorite parts were Streep and her band rocking out. Ricki is an idiot and a Republican (she insults Pres. Obama, then turns to Worrel and says, "No offense"). She betrayed her family for the dream of playing in a dump for decades. But, you know, her band is great, and even if there's nobody to listen but some barflies, a vet in a wheelchair and the gay bartender, they rock out. Streep and Springfield have some on-stage flirting and spats (moderated by Rick the Bass Player), and eventually get together in a sweet way. But even that isn't the best part.

It is my belief that all over the country, you can wander into a bar and there will be an amazing band playing. You've never heard of them and they probably don't get paid enough to even cover expenses, but you'll never hear anything with more soul and power. It's happened to me - catching a country band with a 50-year-old "chick" singer playing Rednecks, White Socks and Blue Ribbon Beer in a roadhouse called the Dewdrop Inn. Dancing to a band called the Jaguars in a Framingham motel bar, killing Stormy Monday. Under a banyan at a Hawai'i county fair. And so on.

OK, maybe it's rare, and most bar bands stink. And certainly, rocking a bar is no excuse for being a terrible mother and bad human being. But that power must count for something.

In conclusion, Streep can actually sing, and learned to play rhythm for the movie pretty convincingly.

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