Ricki and The Flash (2015)

The Flash are a bar-room band and Ricki (Meryl Streep) is their lead singer. She’s in a relationship with the lead guitarist but isn’t willing to acknowledge it, and she’s estranged from her family (ex-husband Kevin Kline, a daughter and two sons) but events conspire to pull her back into their orbit after a decade away. It’s an odd experience this film, because I entirely believe in the characters — director Jonathan Demme and screenwriter Diablo Cody put in all kinds of details that seem to ring true. There’s a faint sense of desperation around the edges, Ricki/Linda has a day job to make ends meet, there’s the bijou apartment she lives in, and the bar where she plays, with its name tacked hastily over the previous one outside. This care to build believable characters extends too to her ex, to her daughter (played by Streep’s real-life daughter Mamie Gummer) and minor characters like the woman her son is marrying, dreadfully concerned with how things look to her conservative family. It’s just that I don’t buy any of the emotional relationships or character arcs: I don’t believe the decisions Ricki makes, and everything just seems too neatly constructed and overwritten. However, it’s a very likeable film in that old-fashioned way where every character has their reasons and we end up wanting the best for all of them.


© TriStar Pictures

NEW RELEASE FILM REVIEW
Director Jonathan Demme | Writer Diablo Cody | Cinematographer Declan Quinn | Starring Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline, Mamie Gummer | Length 101 minutes || Seen at Picturehouse Central, London, Wednesday 16 September 2015

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Admission (2013)


NEW RELEASE FILM REVIEW || Director Paul Weitz | Writer Karen Croner (based on the novel by Jean Hanff Korelitz) | Cinematographer Declan Quinn | Starring Tina Fey, Paul Rudd, Lily Tomlin, Nat Wolff, Michael Sheen | Length 97 minutes | Seen at Cineworld Shaftesbury Avenue, London, Friday 14 June 2013 || My Rating 2.5 stars likeable


© Focus Features

This new film pairing Tina Fey and the seemingly unaging Paul Rudd has come in for some fairly disappointing reviews since it was released in the States earlier this year, but I rather liked it. It certainly isn’t a spectacular example of the romance genre (terrain familiar to both lead actors), but its virtues are solid and it has a good supporting cast of characters to enliven proceedings.

As it happened, I saw this back to back with Stuck in Love, another film set amongst bookish intellectuals inhabiting the cynical north-east of the United States, and if it’s possible Admission is even less nuanced with its character arcs. Fey plays Portia, a cynical, uptight and childless middle-aged admissions clerk at Princeton University, while Rudd is John Pressman, a free-spirited progressive educationalist with an adopted family whose star student Jeremiah (Nat Wolff) wants to go to Princeton. So far, so predictable, and in truth there’s little that shakes the viewer from that early assessment. Portia shelters herself from family commitments within her protective Ivy League enclave, while Pressman flits around the world engaging with developing communities to much the same end, so there’s little surprise in way their journey progresses. It’s never quite clear why Jeremiah wants to go to Princeton or whether this kind of elitist education is genuinely worthwhile, but it allows for some gentle comedy at the clash of cultures between the Ivy League and the liberal do-gooding of Pressman’s academy (which incidentally doesn’t seem to be at all academically rigorous in its methods).

Whatever its merits, it is worth noting that Admission is a comedy only in the broadest sense: there are few laugh-out-loud moments. In keeping with its pretentious milieu, the comedy in it is far more about wry smiles and occasional embarrassment such as at Portia’s ineptitude with the younger generation. Continue reading “Admission (2013)”