Aug 07

“Ricki and the Flash”: A 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, LA Weekly, 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, Hitfix:

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:

Feb 10

“Cake”: How to Get Kicked Out of Your Support Group

Most of the buzz about the panned movie Cake has been focused on Jennifer Aniston‘s role as the lead, Claire Simmons, including her deglammed look for the part.

There are reasons, of course, for the latter. A few descriptions of Claire:

Tom Long, Detroit News: “We meet Claire at a support group for chronic pain sufferers, where the topic of conversation is Nina (Anna Kendrick), a group member who has recently committed suicide by jumping off a freeway overpass.”

Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle: “…(W)hen you’re in pain, who has time for diplomacy? Within her first five minutes of screen time, she unnerves her touchy-feely support group and gets a nervous phone call from her ex-husband. She is drinking and taking pills around the clock and seems to be half hoping she will accidentally kill herself. Her only contact is with her maid — Claire is well off — played by Adriana Barraza with subtlety and complex emotion.”

Melissa Maerz, Entertainment Weekly: “Claire is so bent on remaining miserable that she’s alienated her nice-guy husband (Chris Messina), her physical therapist (Mamie Gummer), and her support-group leader [Felicity Huffman], who ousts her from the circle.”

More About the Plot

Related to her own suicidal impulses, Claire becomes fixated on Nina’s suicide—she even dreams of her and talks to her ghost. Inkoo Kang, The Wrap: “Claire…begins visiting Nina’s widower Roy (Sam Worthington), the only other person in her life for whom rage is their default emotion. ‘Anger feels good,’ they agree. Roy provides Claire with some much-needed male company, but their relationship evolves into something much more complex (and, again, more believable) than a straightforward romance.”

Gradually some answers are revealed regarding Claire’s issues, and “cake” makes its meaningful appearance. Eventually, furthermore, Claire’s emotions are no longer limited to anger.

The Trailer

J. R. Jones, Chicago Reader: “Cake follows the formulaic arc of catharsis and healing too closely to be considered a major film, but its careful balance of humor and anguish, its sense of mirthless drollery, isn’t something you see every day. Whether or not Aniston ever gets another role like this one, I have a hard time imagining anyone else in it—and that’s the sign of a genuine actor.”