Flat and Flatter

I’ve put this off as long as I can.

Ricki and the Flash is no Silence of the Lambs (probably the high water mark for Jonathan Demme’s directing career). Meryl Streep plays an aging rocker who left her husband and kids years before to find fame and instead is playing covers at a sparsely populated bar in Southern California with her boyfriend/band mate played by Rick Springfield.

A family crisis (involving her daughter character played by Streep’s real-life daughter Mamie Gummer) brings her back home to ex-hubby, played by Kevin Kline, his wife, and the original couple’s two sons.

No one is particularly glad to see her at first. Okay, maybe Kline’s character a little bit.

The film feels flat. Lots of unexplored emotional territory and too many mediocre cover songs played in full instead of in snippets to convey just why Ricki never made the big time.

Ricki

For all Ms. Streep’s considerable and celebrated technique, I never bought her in the role.

If that seems unkind, just wait to hear what I have to say about Grace and Frankie. This is the “flatter” part of the equation.

I may lose friends over this, but the show has been picked up by Netflix for a second season while all I can think is “Please don’t make me watch it unless it gets a whole lot better.”

Frankie and Grace

Love all the actors separately (and there are moments when each shines in the series — as when Jane Fonda lets her face fall early on), but all of them (Lily Tomlin, Sam Waterston, and Martin Sheen round out the leads) have been in much stronger vehicles before this one.

Ostensibly a sitcom about two long-married couples, Fonda and Sheen as the uptight and traditional two and Tomlin and Waterston as the more free-flowing set, whose law partner husbands leave their wives to be together and make their long-term love affair legitimate.

Never have I seen two people supposedly so deeply and passionately in love have as little chemistry as Sheen and Waterston.

Never have I (spoiler) seen a woman so uptight as Fonda’s character leap into bed with a sketchy ex-con who isn’t even sexy (not that I would have been convinced even if he had been hot instead of smarmy).

Seldom have I seen so many half-hour episodes that feel like they are at least an hour long. The pacing on the series is a mess.

People I admire and care about love this show. Don’t hate me for disagreeing. Let’s just agree to disagree.

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