Meryl Streep Unleashes Her Inner Redneck

When you're Meryl Streep, the 65-year-old queen of American cinema, whenever you see a script you like, and a part you want to play, it's made into a movie, a big production movie.

Brooke Busey-Maurio came up with the script that Meryl wanted, Ricki and the Flash. (When Brooke became a stripper a few years ago she adopted the pseudonym Diablo Cody, which is now her professional name.)  It had a role for Meryl's 32-year-old daughter Mamie, but more importantly it let Meryl show a side of herself the public had never seen -- the inner Meryl, a Rock and Roll Redneck.

Ricki's a washed-out rocker with an album from long ago as her only career highlight. But she plugs away with her band at a low rent rock and roll bar in Tarzana. To make ends meet she's a checker at Walmart, working under the supervision of a snarky little black kid. Long ago she walked out on her white-bread, goody-two-shoes husband, Kevin Kline, in order to pursue her dream of fame and fortune.  When her daughter has a nervous breakdown she flies back to try to help.

Her daughter is a wreck, one of her sons is a gay snot, and the other the spitting image of his uptight, smug, and oh-so-progressive father, who's married a black woman. Her ex-husband's family is high society, stinking rich and outspokenly liberal. Meryl's character, Ricki Rendazo, is belittled for having voted for George Bush. She's defiant, saying she's proud to be an American.  She sports a big American flag tattoo on her back.

She finagles an invitation to her son's wedding, and for her wedding gift she and her band rock the house. She's so good, and has so much soul and energy, that the wedding reception turns into a rock and roll concert. She's got the beat, and even these uptight WASPY liberals beak down and dance.

Meryl Streep learned how to play the electric guitar in preparation for this role, and worked on her voice.  The music in the movie is from live tracks -- you hear Meryl sing, and her band play, just as they were live.

Meryl Streep is good enough to have been a rock star if she had wanted.  She's got rhythm, and a voice, and heart. Somewhere, deep down, that's what she'd dreamed of doing. So she did it in a movie. So there. But her character is not just a rocker.  She's Ricki Rendazzo, a blood and soil American, a rock and roll patriot. 

Maybe there's a little of that in Meryl too.

Fritz Pettyjohn is a former Alaska State Legislator and a Co-founder of the Balanced Budget Amendment Task Force.  He blogs at

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