Thursday, June 20, 2019

Tag: Mamie Gummer

Ricki and the Flash Review – 3 out of 5 Stars

RickiAndTheFlashPoster
I knew what type of movie this was going to be when I entered the theater. The trailers led me to believe that this would be yet another predictable snooze fest in the same line as Southpaw and The Judge. Now that I’ve watched it, Ricki and the Flash is absolutely the kind of movie that you think it’s going to be and there’s never a big, shocking moment or daring piece of storytelling. However, this movie was still a mildly pleasant surprise for a number of reasons. Ricki and the Flash is helped by a terrific cast and its general good will towards its audience. The movie doesn’t aim to constantly manipulate or bore like Southpaw but rather be a light, funny and ultimately charming experience that even manages to discuss a few worthwhile topics throughout.

Ricki (Meryl Streep) is a near broke rock singer who spends her days working at a grocery store and her nights playing in a band with her boyfriend Greg (Rick Springfield) in a bar. After she finds out that her daughter Julie (Mamie Gummer) was divorced, she flies back home to visit her ex-husband (Kevin Kline) and her 3 children. In this, she rebuilds her relationship with her children and she comes to terms with the things she gave up in the name of pursuing her dream.

Greg (Rick Springfield) and Ricki (Meryl Streep perform with the Flash at the Salt Well in TriStar Pictures' RICKI AND THE FLASH.

I don’t want to set this movie up as more than it is; it has some major issues that keep it from being more than just okay. It’s wasn’t so much that there was anything offensive about it as much as there were a lot of areas that felt numbing. The story about the aging star whose empty inside because they didn’t spend enough time with their family is nothing new, that could even be the brief summary of last year’s best picture winner Birdman. The movie has a lot to jump over to make this seem fresh and while there are a few things that give it a bit of momentum, it doesn’t exactly leap over the barrel but rather land comfortably in the middle of it. The film might not have anything terrible but after a few days you won’t remember much about it asides from that you found it a tad entertaining.

You can basically copy and paste a lot of the complaints I had towards Southpaw to this movie. There are too many scenes in here that have been done before like the fight between the ex-wife and the new wife, the awkward family dinner and the wacky reception where everyone becomes friends again. Unlike Southpaw, the movie manages to do these things competently enough as to where they aren’t boring but still they aren’t inspired enough as to where they demand your full attention. The whole experience lacks full staying power or edge which is shocking when you consider the two people who were brought on to make this. Diablo Cody made the honest, hilarious Young Adult and Jonathan Demme made Silence of the Lambs, one of the most daring films of the 90’s. With the talent that was brought on you can see why this didn’t entirely suck but you can’t see why there finished product together still felt so mediocre.

Clichés and mundane aspects mentioned, I still found this flick to be surprisingly enjoyable. As I mentioned above, this is partially due to the talent on board in terms of the writer, director and cast.

While there are plenty of moments that make the screenplay feel contrived, I was actually impressed with some of the topics Cody tried to bring up. Though at times awkwardly pulled off, it was an interesting touch that despite how crazy and wacky Ricki may seem, she was still this surprisingly conservative person who made snarky comments on Obama and seemed uncomfortable when one of her sons told her that he was gay. A lot of artists decide to center their films around very liberal characters and it’s interesting to see someone attempt to portray a different opinion from the cinematic norm in a fair and humanized way even though I consider myself to be a heavy liberal. It was also creative when this movie brought up the way our culture looks at men and women differently. When the man leaves a family to pursue their career, there a bold hero that must still be respected. When a woman decides to leave, she’s a horrible mother who’s cruel and selfish. People can leave a family for a lot of reasons but to center there self-worth on their gender is blatantly incorrect logic. And though it has been done multiple times before, I liked the relationship between the old mom and the new mom and the mutual respect they were able to find with their differences by the end. I enjoyed that it still managed to talk about some provoking subjects despite a conventional story.

The movie also aims at times for this slice of life quality which keeps it from feeling like too much of a melodrama. The movie never seems to be throwing anything in your face and the way it handles even the more typical story arcs feels natural because of the humor and sincerity with which Cody wrote everything. The best scene in the movie is when Ricki, her ex-husband and her daughter find some weed and listen to some old rock music and hang out. It’s the sort of scene we saw last year in This is Where I Leave You but here it feels much sweeter because of the performances and because it comes from something that is genuine. The real difference between this and Southpaw is that all of this movies clichéd elements like the suicidal daughter or the washed up rock star come from a well-intentioned place as though Diablo Cody really wanted this to mean something. It never beats you over the head with anything and it never feels cheap despite how overused it is. It’s that quality to the script that allowed me to let pass a lot of the things that have annoyed me in recent dramas.

There’s also a lot to be said about the actors who worked on this. Meryl Streep was Meryl Streep. She can give a good performance in anything. A part of me does wish Streep would try to give a great performance in a great movie but regardless this is another really touching part by her and she adds a lot to the character. Kevin Kline is quite good as her ex-husband and Mamie Gummer was impressive as Streep’s odd daughter in what could’ve been a very campy and gimmicky part. The chemistry between Streep and Gummer and the overall mother daughter relationship is one of the finer areas the movie had to offer. Lastly, I have to mention how weirdly fantastic Rick Springfield was here. You wouldn’t expect it from the singer of Jesse’s Girl but Springfield is really sympathetic and heartfelt in the few scenes where he plays Greg. I love the scene where he sort of breaks down in front of Ricki and addresses his own flaws to her.

This movie doesn’t have the brain you want it to have but its heart is in the right place. Everyone seemed to be trying to give everything to give this very predictable story an emotional center. Streep, Springfield and Gummer stand out and Diablo Cody uses the premise to address some issues and build up a warmth that allows for it to at least feel like a short movie going experience. Don’t go in expecting anything new, but still, I am actually giving this one an out of nowhere recommendation.

Rating:(3/5)

Review by: Ryan M.

Release Date: 8/7/2015

Rating: PG-13

Cast: Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline, Mamie Gummer and Rick Springfield

Directed by: Jonathan Demme

Screenplay by: Diablo Cody

Ricki and the Flash (2015)

RickiAndTheFlashPoster

Title: Ricki and the Flash
Rating: PG-13
Directed by: Jonathan Demme
Written by: Diablo Cody
Starring: Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline and Mamie Gummer
Release Date: 8/7/2015
Running Time: 102 minutes

Official Site
IMDb

A musician who gave up everything for her dream of rock-and-roll stardom returns home, looking to make things right with her family.


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During Credits? No

After Credits? No

Note: The band performs another number and the wedding party dances along during the credits.

Dedication: Dedicated to Rick the Bass Player 1949 – 2014


The End of the Tour Review – 4 out of 5 Stars

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End of the Tour seems like a film that will go underappreciated for a large set of reasons. From a distance, the story is about this interview Rolling Stone writer David Lipsky (Jesse Eisenberg) did with acclaimed author David Foster Wallace (Jason Segal). There’s no big moment or intense sequence, no sex or violence, from start to finish End of the Tour is a conversation about a variety of topics between two fascinating people. The simplicity and the seemingly mundane storyline will turn off a lot of people. However, those who accept what the film is going for and try to give it a chance will be rewarded with a complex character study complete with a fantastic turn from Jason Segal and an enriching screenplay that will give you plenty to explore and chew on during and after the film.

The storyline is give or take what I said above. After the suicide of beloved author David Foster Wallace in 2008, writer David Lipsky reflects on an interview he did with Wallace for Rolling Stone Magazine in 1996. As the title suggests, Lipsky is talking with Wallace on the last stop of his book tour for Infinite Jest. Lipsky receives a look into the private and more personal aspects of Wallace’s life and Wallace slowly begins to learn more about Lipsky as well throughout the trip. They discuss art, creativity, sexuality and fame among other things throughout their five days together.

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I will admit first off to never having read anything from the two authors that are featured in the movie. I can’t speak for how well the film captures Wallace because he’s a person I knew very little about going in. Regardless, Jason Segal gives an outstanding performance here. Jesse Eisenberg is great here as David Lipsky but it’s very much the type of part he usually plays and I wouldn’t call it a part that stands above all the other things he’s done before this. It’s Segal who shines brightly here as the humble, eccentric David Foster Wallace. I’ve seen Segal do a great job in comedies before this but this feels like the first time where we’re getting to see Segal play a meaty role. This is the first time I can truly see him as more than the admittedly charming lead of an Aptow style comedy. The performance and the screenplay do a near perfect job of capturing this guy who’s both absolutely brilliant and yet honest and approachable at the same time. David Foster Wallace isn’t presented as this perfect, godly man who is giving constant wise advice to the other main character. The movie makes sure that they show him for his strengths through his observations of life but the film also captures his insecurities and his vices that make him far from a holy sage. This beauty of Segal’s performance isn’t in these loud, flashy moments but in these quiet scenes where he gets to show the man as this real person who could be funny or sad or wrong or egotistical. On the last night at his house, Wallace gets to the core of what scares him in life and it’s hard not to be taken by the grace and warmth with which Segal handles the scene.

Though he pales in comparison to the other lead, Jesse Eisenberg as I mentioned above is also doing great work here as this also quite intelligent writer who is also a little jealous of the talents and the fame that Wallace has received. The role of a neurotic, cynical writer is the part that Eisenberg was clearly born to play as he sinks into the character with the ease of a new pair of socks. The movie does a great job of making sure that David isn’t overshadowed by the other David. Through and through, this film is about the conversation between these people and even though one of them is more famous and well known than the other, they are both highly engaging characters with fascinating looks on life. Even though one of the roles is more challenging and big than the other, both of the leads did a great job bringing to life these two real people and adding sincerity and understanding to their dialogue. This is one of those movies where the leads need to be perfect or the whole film falls apart. It’s because of this that I think both of these actors deserve massive credit for how they tackled the screenplay.

The substance of the script is both simple and challenging to explain. The film contains such a small story yet it in its hour and forty minutes it has a lot to say about human nature. The relationship between these two characters in fascinating as one seeks what the other doesn’t want. Lipsky wants his books to be famous and he wants people to know who he is but Wallace has gained what Lipsky wants and yet it terrifies him to no end. Throughout the film, he’s shown as this usually very private person who tries to keep hidden these aspects about his daily life from the media. He sees his “fans” as well intentioned people who he’s often uncomfortable being around. He tries to juggle his fame with his very down to earth job teaching at a university. He seeks these hometown moments like watching Broken Arrow and taking care of his dogs rather than embracing the success of his books. He believes that this fame will put more pressure on him for his next books and it’ll lead him to eventual ruin. This fear is that much more affecting and haunting due to his eventual suicide 12 years later. This aspect fascinates director James Ponsoldt and it could be seen as the true core of the relationship between the two Davids.

There are several different areas that these two bring up throughout the tour. There’s a great scene where Wallace explains his fears of the things pornography will eventually allows people to do in terms of their relationships with others. Besides the idea of fame, the film is also a lot about what makes people want to write and what drives their work. The film presents the ways Wallace approaches his work as well as how he wants other to see his work and you also get a great look into journalism and how Lipsky is viewing what he is creating with the interview between them. There’s this somewhat random yet surprisingly intimate moment near the end where Lipsky privately records to himself the different small little quirks of Wallace’s house. There are multiple times where Lipsky and Wallace argue about something yet it never feels fake or planted there to add tension to the story. They have different opinions and share them to each other and then they accept and understand them the way you would in an actual debate.

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I make the film sound like just a profound conversation after another profound conversation but the film actually works because it’s nothing like that. There are certainly scenes where they argue about these heavy topics but there are an equal amount of moments where they are discussing very natural, often quite humorous things from Wallace’s attraction to Alanis Morissette to their heavy appreciation of Die Hard, its personal little sequences like these that keep the film human and watchable.

When you look at what the basic outline of the movie is, it’s a miracle that this didn’t come off as more arrogant or boring. But through the talents of the leads as well as the screenplay, this film manages to be both darkly contemplative and charmingly natural. The film is as much about hidden truths of the universe as it is about the small comforts of Wallace’s snowy little home in Illinois. End of the Tour is certainly restrained by the small scale of its story but the directors and writers and the actors make the most of every minute to create something that is poignant and entertaining.

Rating:(4/5)

Review by: Ryan M.

Release Date: 7/31/2015

Rating: R

Cast: Jason Segel, Jesse Eisenberg, Anna Chlumsky, Mamie Gummer and Joan Cusack

Directed by: James Ponsoldt

Screenplay by: Donald Margulies

Based on the Book by: David Lipsky

Lifeguard, The (2013)

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TITLE: The Lifeguard

RELEASE DATE: 8/30/2013

RATING: R

A former valedictorian quits her reporter job in New York and returns to the place she last felt happy: her childhood home in Connecticut. She gets work as a lifeguard and starts a dangerous relationship with a troubled teenager.

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During Credits? No

After Credits? No

Special thanks to Frank S. for this submission


Ward, The (2010)*

TITLE: The Ward

RELEASE DATE: 7/8/2011

RATING: R

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During Credits? Yes

Click to see whats: during the credits

 

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