FRIDAY NIGHT MOVIE REVIEW: “Being the Ricardos” stars Nicole Kidman (Far and Away, The Others ), Javier Bardem (No Country for Old Men, Mother!), J.K. Simmons (Whiplash , Ride the Eagle), Nina Arianda (Midnight in Paris, Stan & Ollie), Tony Hale (Toy Story 4, Arrested Development [TV series]), Alia Shawkat (The To Do List, Whip It), Jake Lacy (Carol, Rampage), Clark Gregg (The Avengers ,  Days of Summer), and Christopher Denham (Argo, Shutter Island). It is written and directed by Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network, Moneyball).
Taking place in the span of five days from prep to live taping of an “I Love Lucy” episode, Lucille Ball (Kidman) and Desi Arnaz (Bardem) face an uphill battle when Lucy is deemed a communist in the news.
“Lucy, I’m home!” Aaron Sorkin returns as writer/director for yet another high-profile release, following the true story of one Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz during a turbulent week of filming an “I Love Lucy” episode. It’s an interesting project for Sorkin to pick up, and one that has certainly caused a split amongst both popcorn goers and critics alike.
Growing up, I recall my mom playing a few episodes of “I Love Lucy” on our kitchen television. It wasn’t the most popular old series to circulate in our household (most screentime went to “The Andy Griffith Show” or “Hogan’s Heroes”), but I recognized it as something iconic. Lucille Ball is a legend in the industry, as is her creative partner Desi Arnaz. Their television series captured the hearts of America with its comedy and chemistry between its leads. Now Sorkin seeks to tackle a story that took place behind-the-scenes, where Lucy is charged with being a communist in the press (during the height of the Red Scare) and finds out that her husband Desi may be cheating on her.
Prominent in most analysts’ concerns for the film lie in the casting. I found it quite interesting, with almost the whole ensemble being formed by actors I love, but would’ve never thought to fill the roles. Kidman shines as Lucy. Plain and simple. The way she carries herself and her voice fit the mold of Ball, and she did a tremendous job conveying the emotions of the star during such a stressful week. Her chemistry with Javier Bardem is great, and Bardem himself does what he does best (I’m a huge fan). However, I would be remiss not to mention the somewhat misfire in casting him as Desi. I don’t think Sorkin sought out to cast exact look-alikes for these roles; I think he simply wanted the best talent to play the soul of the real people. Bardem entertains, but he is no Desi. He’s far too old for the part, instead operating in a suave, legalistic way. I saw him as Javier Bardem, through and through, even though he acted well for the material he was given.
Everyone else who filled out the roles were fun. J.K. Simmons and Nina Arianda are great, and Tony Hale and Alia Shawkat are stand-outs. Sorkin knows how to get a good group together, and his dialogue is always a champion. The story itself is structured in a non-linear fashion, as we not only bear witness to a week of filming an “I Love Lucy” episode, but also how Lucy and Desi’s relationship started in the first place. It’s well-balanced, clearly leaning into the fact that the real issue isn’t that Lucy has been accused of being a communist, but that her relationship with Desi is a shell of what it once was. The scenes they share are nice, though I will say that the film in its entirety more so served the purpose of being informative rather than being emotional.
I didn’t feel that connected to the characters. There are moments that I really enjoy (particularly the argument between Vivian (Arianda) and Lucy about Edith’s image, as well as the kiss mark on the handkerchief), but overall the movie just starts and ends. For someone who doesn’t know much of anything about “I Love Lucy,” it was cool to watch how the production of an episode would get executed; but outside of that there’s not much skin in the game. I found myself checking the time every now and then, which always isn’t a good sign (granted, I was fairly tired when I started watching it).
There’s many cogs in this machine that work well with “Being the Ricardos”. The cinematography and production design are lovely, and it truly captures the late 40’s/early 50’s marvelously. All of the performances are top-notch, even if some of them don’t fit the characters they are playing. At the end of the day, I just didn’t fall in love with the story; it has some good pay-offs, but most of it is spent just rolling along. And I can tell by the reviews by fans of the original series are outraged because the story doesn’t do anything inventive. This is something people are aware of, so how do the characters themselves stand out (outside of the fact that they are portrayals of the real-life people)? Sorkin does better than most screenwriters, but this one isn’t his best work. It’s an alright film, for sure. But it’s not one that leaves a lasting mark. FINAL SCORE: 73%= Juicy Popcorn
Here is the trailer:
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