Women are certainly more empowered than they used to be, but Meryl Streep’s new film Ricki and the Flash dives deep into what it’s like when a woman chooses her career over her children.
Ricki and the Flash is about a hard-rocking 60-something singer, Ricki (Meryl Streep), who’s summoned by her ex-husband Pete (Kevin Kline) when their daughter Julie (Mamie Gummer) gets dumped by her husband. The biggest thrill of watching this movie are the scenes between Streep and her real-life daughter, Gummer. Acting ability is clearly in the genes, and it’s delightful to see Gummer hold her own opposite America’s grande dame of film.
But the film really hits home for a lot of working mothers, considering the resentment Ricki’s kids still have for her, despite being grown-up and well cared for by their father and stepmother, Maureen (Audra McDonald).
When we asked Streep about Ricki’s choice to pursue rock and roll over raising her kids, she said, “Too bad she had to pick. Ricki isn’t an emblem for all womankind, at all,” adding, “She’s sorry that the kids are unhappy with her. But I don’t think she regrets becoming who she felt she had to be.”
But Streep does think that in her own way, Ricki was a good parent. “There was something good about the way that Ricki was modeled for her. She left those kids in good hands. That was a good mother. There’s regret sometimes in life, a sorrow about the way things turn out sometimes.”
We asked Gummer about why our culture seems to force women to choose between raising children and having a career. Though she admits she doesn’t know exactly, she said, “It’s a combination of how our society is structured, culturally, how we understand those roles. The fact that there is such a thing as maternity leave, but not paternity leave, which there ought to be. That, from the very early days, sets up a disparity.”
So what was the inspiration for Ricki, according to screenwriter Diablo Cody, best known for her film 2007 film Juno? “The character of Ricki was actually inspired by my mother-in-law, Terry, who is the lead singer in a Jersey Shore rock band called Silk and Steel,” said Cody.
Terry is a grandmother of six, and she’s “still up there rocking out every weekend, walking on the bar, just electrifying the audience. Rock and roll is her life, and I think there have been people in her life who have thought it was kind of a silly thing for a mom or grandmother to do — and she doesn’t give a damn. I love that about her,” said Cody,
Ricki and the Flash opens Friday.