Saturday, January 1, 2022

Being the Ricardos: Movie Review

Nostalgic and engrossing.
Making a drama about a comedy. I love Aaron Sorkin but turning I Love Lucy and its beloved star into a tawdry-esque drama is just asking for public backlash. I’m not surprised I’m on the other side of this than the majority of other critics and viewers, just disappointed. Being the Ricardos is a very quintessential Sorkin tale of old Hollywood. He loves the history of sitcoms and how writing and politics collide. And if you do as well, this is worth your time.   2021

Directed by: Aaron Sorkin

Screenplay by: Aaron Sorkin

Starring: Nicole Kidman, Javier Bardem

Now to be fair, I wasn’t always on the side of the making of Being the Ricardos. The original casting announcement was Cate Blanchett. Which felt like the laziest, most unoriginal, toe-the-corporate-line and please everybody type of casting. I felt – and still do – that a behind the scenes Lucille Ball biopic deserved a make-it-or-break-it type casting of some unknown actress poised to breakthrough. That’s not Nicole Kidman (replacing Blanchett), that’s not Javier Bardem, heck, you have to go really far down the cast list before you can find any name that could potentially describe.

To say I was disappointed about the cast is an understatement. And yet, they deliver. Kidman really does embody Lucille Ball. She has the determination and perseverance required for a woman to succeed on the production side of Hollywood, as well as the pure comedy gold that she brought as Lucy Ricardo to all the 1950s tv screens. Javier Bardem is a natural fit for Sorkin’s dialogue and is able to personalize all the conflicting elements of Desi Arnaz’s personality.

There are three central stories within Being the Ricardos. I know how much Aaron Sorkin likes researching for his projects, so there is no doubt these are all accurate, but I do think he has consolidated some timelines to get them to all occur concurrently. There is no problem with such movie manipulation when it really adds to the drama of the movie and how all three parallel stories work so well together.

The movie takes place over the course of one week during the filming of season one’s episode “Fred and Ethel Fight” and while the writers are mapping out season 2. During this week, a tabloid has printed news that Desi Arnaz has cheated on Lucy Ball; Lucy has to decide if she believes him or not. Another tabloid is threatening to print that Lucy Ball is a communist – this is not just a silly distraction in 1952, this is a career-destroying allegation that the team has to navigate. And finally, Lucy is pregnant. I Love Lucy made history as the first show to have a pregnancy on TV.

The movie’s handling of the communism and pregnancy storylines are absolutely fascinating. The cheating storyline is a little more status-quo for a celebrity biopic. But ultimately, Being the Ricardos is an entertaining movie which does an excellent job meshing the historical and political implications of the legacy of I Love Lucy.