Rock singer Ricki Rendazzo (Meryl Streep) once dreamed of filling stadiums, but in the years since she first set off on her career, she's settled for a weekly gig playing for a small but loyal crowd of regulars at a divey bar in Tarzana, California. As "Ricki and the Flash" begins, Ricki receives a call from her ex-husband (Kevin Kline) that their daughter, Julie (Streep's real-life daughter, Mamie Gummer) has fallen into a suicidal depression after the collapse of her own marriage. To her credit, Ricki doesn't hesitate in hopping on a plane back to Indianapolis, even knowing that it means returning to the family she abandoned decades earlier. Director Jonathan Demme is mining similar terrain as his wonderful "Rachel Getting Married" (the director has a gift for staging movie weddings I wouldn't mind attending), though the results are a little more uneven here. Still, "Ricki" has plenty of charm, offering something akin to the familiar pleasure of hearing a favorite rock song come on the radio.
Writer Diablo Cody adds another memorable female character to her eclectic filmography, giving Streep a complex, surprising character to sink her teeth into. The actress is (no surprise) quite good, delivering a human-sized performance that holds up against the type of towering characters she typically portrays. Cody's script is smart about the way music can function as a tool to connect us to others, and she never makes Ricki feel regret over the decisions she's made, even if they haven't landed her exactly where she'd hoped. Though the concept is familiar, the film finds ways to inject its story with an appealing, messy humanity.