Aug 07

“Ricki and the Flash”: Walk-Away Mom Returns to Family

…(I)ts biggest statement is a quick, sharp dig when Ricki takes the stage to point out that Mick Jagger has seven kids by four women, and no one tells him to quit rock for parenthood. Amy Nicholson, regarding Ricki and the Flash

Although Meryl Streep the actress can arguably do no wrong, her character in Jonathan Demme‘s new film Ricki and the Flash has a lotta ‘splainin’ to do. Many years ago, in order to pursue her rock-star dreams, Ricki just up and left her husband and kids. Not that she stopped all contact, but over the years she’s become less and less available.

But with the advent of a recent family crisis, Ricki’s ex (Kevin Kline) contacts her. As further explained by Gregory Ellwood (Uproxx):

Julie, Ricki’s thirtysomething daughter (played by Streep’s own daughter Mamie Gummer), is having a breakdown. Her husband has left her for another woman and she’s holed up in her father’s Indianapolis home trying to recover. An almost penniless Ricki shows up on her ex’s doorstep to help. Her style and demeanor are almost alien to everyone around her, but she tries to fit into this opulent Middle America world her offspring have thrived in. Yes, Ricki has two other grown up sons, Joshua (Sebastian Stan) and Adam (Nick Westrate), and it’s not entirely clear either is happy to see her.

More info about Ricki’s sons: Joshua’s about to get married; Adam happens to be gay.

Ricki’s not going to have an easy time of it, of course. After all, she is the oft-reviled “walk-away mom” as defined by Peggy Drexler, PhD (Psychology Today): a mother who “lives apart from her children by choice. She didn’t lose them; she left them – for a dream, for a job, for a relationship, for the sheer need to rediscover a self she feels has been subsumed by family.” This type of mom, I’m sure you already know, faces significantly worse societal judgment than the same type of dad.

What facts back up the harsher condemnation directed toward moms who walk versus dads who walk? Possibly none. Drexler (CNN) cites research showing that “children raised in single-father homes as a whole fare as well as those in single-mother homes. From an emotional standpoint, there are no studies to show that children of absentee mothers are angrier than those of absentee fathers. But anecdotally, this seems to be the case.”

Drexler offers a “positive spin” to this issue, however:

Most experts, myself included, agree that it’s better for a child to have an absent parent than a parent who’s present but neglectful — or worse.

And in my experience, children who come to accept the abandonment of a parent, specifically a mother, tend to be more forgiving when they believe that in doing so they were given a better life, whether that was the mother’s intent or not.

Getting back to Ricki and the Flash, will her three adult kids be able to accept or relate to her now that she’s back in town? Forgive her?

Watch the trailer and see if you’re sufficiently intrigued:

Mar 29

“Rachel Getting Married”: Rehab Interrupted, Emotional Chaos

The contemporary slice-of-life film Rachel Getting Married (2008), directed by Jonathan Demme, features Kym (Anne Hathaway), a young woman who’s tried substance abuse rehab a number of times and hasn’t yet succeeded. In fact, she’s currently on a weekend leave from her most recent rehab—in order to attend her sister’s wedding. Cue plenty of opportunities for emotionally loaded dysfunctional-type interactions.

Here’s the trailer to get you started:

Having seen and liked the movie, I appreciated reading the following Rachel Getting Married review of Amy Biancolli‘s (Houston Chronicle) so much that I have to quote a significant chunk of it. For starters: “It hurts to watch Rachel Getting Married. It hurts because it captures, better than any film of recent vintage, the wild emotional undulations of life in a dysfunctional family.”

Why does it hurt? “It hurts because addicts are inevitably selfish, and movies about them are inevitably claustrophobic. It hurts because Anne Hathaway is rawer, bluer, meaner, truer, more broken than you’ve ever seen her — than you’ve ever seen just about anyone portraying a lost soul in recovery.”


It hurts because Bill Irwin, the actor playing her father, seems to split down the middle as we watch. It hurts because Rosemarie DeWitt, as the Rachel getting married, conveys without an ounce of malice the outrage and exhaustion of loving someone who’s so far off from normal. And it hurts because our joy at seeing the warm, familiar face of Debra Winger turns to shock when her calibrated performance — as a detached mater familias — abruptly kicks into hellfire-spitting fury.

There’s a lot of other interesting stuff going on as well, including an underlying theme of a tragic family loss—for which Kym is held responsible.

And lots lots more is packed into the few days represented in this film. Wesley MorrisBoston Globe: “Demme and screenwriter Jenny Lumet have given us an epic rehearsal dinner, ceremony, and reception that’s half-cabaret, half group-therapy session, and completely multiracial, multicultural, and multisensory.”

This is one of those quirkier films that the critics loved and the non-critics not so much. It seems that having to sit through loads of family dysfunction is an undesirable for many—imagine that—especially if they already have that at home.

But I feel compelled to let another critic have the last word on this one. Michael Dequina, “The messiness that goes with genuinely flawed and complex people is what makes the film ring so true and cut so deep.”