Follows Lucy and Desi as they face a crisis that could end their careers and another that could end their marriage.
I love Lucy. You love Lucy. Let’s face it, we all love Lucy and the title of Lucille Ball’s first television series couldn’t have been more aptly named. Aaron Sorkin writes and directs a slice of Lucy and Desi Arnaz’s life amidst one of the most pivotal week’s in this couple’s history with “Being the Ricardos.” That week Lucy was named a communist. The fallout could have been the end of her, her marriage, countless employees of the show, and her future…but it wasn’t. And this is their story.
To read Pam’s review in its entirety, go to RHR
It’s been a heck of a week on the “I Love Lucy” show. The writers are struggling to come up with fresh ideas, hounded by the show’s two stars to make sure they’re grounded in realism and logic, while the crew is disgruntled and on the verge of burnout. There have been arguments with the producers at CBS who are balking at the idea of Lucille Ball appearing on the nation’s number one show while pregnant, her husband Desi Arnez insisting this will be the case. Oh, and there’s a rumor floating about that a story claiming Lucy is a communist is set to break at any time.
All of this would be more than enough material for a compelling story and for the most part, Aaron Sorkin’s “Being the Ricardos” is an engaging enough film. Anchored by fascinating performances from Nicole Kidman and Javier Bardem in the two leads, alas the movie has a pacing problem that proves frustrating, nearly undoing the fine work of all involved.
Anecdotes from by writers Bob Carroll and Madelyn Pugh (Ronny Cox and Linda Lavin) as well as producer Jess Oppenheimer (John Rubenstein) about their experiences working on “I Love Lucy” serve as a framing device for the film, their memories providing a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the show. These three perspectives form a comprehensive view of this tumultuous week in 1952, the show already a sensation after only one season on the air, but not without a great deal of difficulty for all involved.
In addition to the strain of running the show, Lucy also suspects that Desi has been unfaithful, an accusation he denies, though the tabloids and his wife’s intuition tell a different tale. As if tension from one of the on-set couples wasn’t enough, William Frawley and Vivian Vance (J.K. Simmons and Nina Arianda) are constantly at each other’s throats, so much so you come to realize what good actors these two were, to be able to portray any sense of affection between their characters on screen.
Lucy is presented as a perfectionist, a taskmaster who insists that each bit be perfect, her strength coming from years of being subjected to short-sighted producers who never saw her potential. She won’t be pushed around and the inherent strength as well as glamour Kidman brings to the screen makes her a perfect choice to bring the icon to life. And while Bardem doesn’t look like Arnez, he captures the performer’s sense of charisma and energy, particularly in a recreation of one of the band leader’s nightclub sessions, banging maniacally on the conga drum, women swooning in their seats. He’s great fun to watch.
Unfortunately, Sorkin employs a series of flashbacks devoted to how the couple met, their courtship and ultimate partnership, both personally and professionally. As well acted as these scenes are, they aren’t nearly as compelling as those devoted to the trials of producing the show. As a result, the film drags and loses its sense of momentum whenever it delves into the couple’s early days.
Still and all, there’s enough here to recommend the movie. In the end, we come away with a greater appreciation for what these two television icons accomplished, that the combined strength of Arnez’s vision and Ball’s tenacity were what shaped their legacy, though their personal troubles would threaten to undo their on-screen work. As such, it seems fitting that “Being the Ricardos” is a film at odds with itself. It’s a bit of irony I think its two subjects would appreciate.