Being the Ricardos
Written and Directed by Aaron Sorkin
(2021, Amazon Studios/Escape Artists (An Escape Artists production)/Big Indie Pictures (produced in association with))
When you think of someone to play the part of Lucille (Lucy) Ball, you may come up with a list of actresses who look like Lucy, have red hair, are comediennes, who you feel would encapsulate this Hollywood icon.
Assuredly, and without a doubt, before you heard of the movie, “Being the Ricardos,” you would not come up with Nicole Kidman in the titular role.
However, when the first trailer came out for the film, there she was – red hair, sculpted eyebrows, channeling that infamous raspy voice. As impressive as this was, was it just going to be a characterization of Lucy? A mimicry if you will. Could Nicole Kidman carry an entire movie playing someone the public knows and loves?
After watching the film, the answer is an easily resounding, yes!
The movie centers around a week in the lives of the Ricardo’s, where Lucille Ball is fighting off the aftermath of being questioned by the congressional House Un-American Activities Committee into her past of being a communist. When the movie starts, Ball is already cleared of all suspicions but her producers at CBS, her sponsors at Phillip Morris, the cast and crew of the show, and, of course, Lucy and Desi, wait day to day to see if the press will pick up the story which they feel could ruin the show and subsequentially, Lucy’s and Desi’s careers.
Due to this stress and the stress of a tabloid story that comes out calling into question Desi’s fidelity to Lucy, Lucy becomes hyper-focused on the show down to the minute details including stage direction, actor entrances, and specific words in the show script.
It goes without saying that Lucille Ball’s attention to detail is what made her and the “I Love Lucy” show the icons that they are today. However, what this movie focuses on is the almost scientific method in which she took the comedy of her show so seriously.
Besides the incredible performance by Kidman as Lucy, the standout performance arrives in the way of Javier Bardem who plays Desi Arnaz. As exquisite as Kidman is in her role (one that she at least deserves an Oscar nomination if not a win), Bardem simply steals every scene he is in. His portrayal of Desi is as smooth and seductive as Desi was rumored to be himself.
Another welcomed surprise were the acting chops of J.K. Simmons and Nina Arianda, who play William Frawley and Vivian Vance respectively. There is a tounge and cheek sort of brother and sister teasing that borders on the cruel here but the script ultimately treats their relationship kindly.
Speaking of the script, really, how could you go wrong with Aaron Sorkin who not only was the writer here but also directed the film. Most, if not all scripts and stories written by Aaron Sorkin are nothing short of amazing. Almost to the point of a rolling of the eyes of knowing that it will have that Aaron Sorkin touch. However, even though you may come to expect that, it is always a pleasant surprise that he still and always is able to drive and steer a story in directions the viewer did not see coming. Sorkin is truly our modern-day Frank Capra.
“Being the Ricardos” could have easily gotten away with parody and simple sentimentality but this movie is so much more than that. It is not only a wonderful homage to Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, but it is a magnificent film that truly stands on its own.