Here's Why We Love Meryl Streep’s 'Bad' Mom Character in 'Ricki & The Flash' (VIDEO)

In her new movie Ricki and the Flash, Streep plays the lead singer in a house band somewhere in the San Fernando Valley -- who just happens to be the mother of three children she did not raise herself. They slipped from her grasp while she was busy trying to have it all.

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Or that's one way to see it. Years earlier Ricki left a husband and three young children in the Midwest to pursue her dream of being a rock star in Los Angeles. One album, a few tours, and many rough years later she is barely keeping her music career alive, estranged from her ex-husband Pete (Kevin Klein) and their offspring.

Then she gets a call from Pete telling her their daughter, Julie (played by Streep's real-life daughter, Mamie Gummer), has been jilted by her fiancé and is free-falling into breakdown. Ricki drops everything to fly back and attempt to rescue her daughter.

From there we see a series of steps and half steps, stumbles, embraces, attacks, and retreats between Ricki and her grown children in this family drama. Can she really come back, after all these years, and expect to find a place with these people?

Maureen (Audra McDonald), the woman who married Pete and raised the three children as her own, definitely has a problem with that.

The two mothers confront each other and force us to confront a lot of questions about what makes a woman a mother and about how much we still expect mothers to give up for their children. How do you balance chasing your dreams with motherhood? How much of your identity should you give over to that new role -- half? Three quarters? All?

What if you choose to be a woman first, far above being a mother? Does that make you a terrible human being?

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About halfway through the film Ricki delivers a bitter rant about rock stars and parenthood. Mick Jagger got to father several children by different mothers, tour all over the world, and no one ever called him a bad dad, she says. But if a mother does that? She's hated. Ricki resents this double standard -- as do countless other women who are passionate about their avocations.

It's easy to judge Ricki, the woman who chose rock and roll over her own flesh and blood. But then, what about her husband? Why didn't the family move together to Los Angeles all those years ago? Why was the choice between music and family forced on Ricki in the first place?

It's complicated, of course.

But Ricki and the Flash isn't all heavy -- it's also gaspingly funny and enchanting, just as the experience of being a parent can be, however you decide to play it.  

 

Image via Sony Pictures Digital Productions

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