By Chris Lee
Updated April 09, 2015 at 11:20 PM EDT
Mamie Gummer and Meryl Streep in Ricki and the Flash
Credit: Bob Vergara
  • Movie

STARRING Meryl Streep, Mamie Gummer, Rick Springfield

DIRECTED BY Jonathan Demme



In the darkly comedic family drama, Meryl Streep is Ricki Randazzo, the lead singer in a cover band who faced a difficult decision 20 years earlier—a kind of Sophie’s Choice between her obligations as a married mother of three and rock & roll. She chooses Option B and bolted. So when her daughter Julie (Streep’s real-life daughter Mamie Gummer) finds herself in crisis back home, Ricki returns from wannabe rock stardom in the San Fernando Valley to, ahem, face the music. “She comes back to Indiana to help rather than patch things up,” says director Jonathan Demme. “And she’s very much persona non grata, showing up as mom for the first time in decades. Abandonment issues!”

In the film, Streep belts out a dozen sing-along-worthy hits in the film including Tom Petty’s “American Girl,” “Wooly Bully,” Bruce Springsteen’s “My Love Will Not Let You Down,” and even “Bad Romance” by Lady Gaga, all recorded before a live audience. “We didn’t use playback. We’re not sweetening it up on the soundtrack. It’s performance!” Demme says. “I have to say with our band—I shouldn’t say it—but I want to say what I feel in my heart—Ricki and the Flash blow away every original.”

But in order to step into the spotlight as a suicide blonde dressed head-to-toe in leather—think Melissa Etheridge, Lucinda Williams and/or the Pretenders’ Chrissie Hynde, albeit in a punkier vein—the actress spent six months intensively practicing guitar. That six-string commitment got a little too real in the movie’s final scene. Afterward, Demme recalls: “She goes, ‘Jonathan look! Blood!’ Meryl had shred so fiercely, a little blood had spattered on her baby blue dress.”

Gummer, 31, a TV and movie actress best known for her title role in the CW’s Emily Owens MD and The Good Wife, made her screen debut opposite Streep in 1986’s Heartburn at 18 months old. The mother-daughter collaboration wasn’t so much a no-brainer as a non-talker. “I was sitting at home, she came by, wordlessly dropped the script and walked away,” says Gummer. “We’ve been careful and conscientious about how we engage in this silly business together,” she continues. “We didn’t talk much about it before stepping onto set the first day. Clearly, I trust she knows what she’s doing. She trusted me. We held hands, shut our eyes and jumped off.”

Streep is no stranger to musically demanding parts, having previously sung in Mamma Mia and Into the Woods. And the multiple Oscar winner’s lurking inner rock star was hardly a surprise to her daughter. “She loves, loves, loves to sing,” says Gummer with a laugh. “Loves it more than almost anything. She in part did this so she’d have permission to sing—and I couldn’t tell her to shut up!”

Ricki and the Flash

2015 movie
  • Movie
  • PG-13
  • 100 minutes
  • Jonathan Demme