I admit that I grew up on reruns of I Love Lucy and like everyone who watched the live show, I absolutely loved it. I’m fairly certain that I watched every episode and fell in love with Lucy and Ricky. But I also loved Lucille Ball and Desi Arnez. When I heard about this film, I very much wanted to see it and see if it would honor Lucille Ball and Desi Arnez and what kind of story the writers would tell. The film was impressive, with a stellar cast, an amazing story, perfect pacing, and immersive quality. I found nothing to fault and everything to love.
Being the Ricardos is a biographical drama written and directed by Aaron Sorkin delving into the relationship between Lucille Ball and Desi Arnez. The film documents Lucy’s communist scare as well as her questioning of Desi’s faithfulness. The couple also announce she’s pregnant to the studio which could lead to filming issues. In stand-in for the famous couple is Nicole Kidman as Lucille Ball and Javier Bardem as Desi. In addition, J.K.Simmons plays William Frawley and Nina Arianda plays Vivian Vance. Tony Hale plays Jess Oppenheimer, executive producer, and writer on the show, Alia Shawkat plays Madelyn Pugh, a writer, and Jake Lacey plays Bob Carroll Jr, also a writer.
This film is one of the best shows of the year. There are many aspects that excel but let’s start with the story. Aaron Sorkin has created a story, that while doesn’t adhere strictly to the full historical accuracy, embraces the vision of who Lucille Ball and Desi Arnez were. The film starts in documentary-style introducing actors playing the older versions of Jess Oppenheimer, Madelyn Pugh, and Bob Carroll Jr. They introduce the drama, Lucy being accused on radio of being a communist. Then the story flashes to Lucy and Desi, after fighting over a picture in the newspaper of Desi with another woman and the radio show. The movie flows between these future interviews, the week of the show where the couple deals with the pressure of the situation, and scenes from the past providing insight into their earlier relationship. It is a novel way to develop a film and yet, it not only works but creates an immersive and engaging film that keeps you in the moment scene to scene.
Even though the film flips between the past and the future, one of the other elements that work is the pacing. The film keeps moving, giving the viewer a clear idea of when each shift happens and setting up for the next scene. The transitions are smooth and keep the audience engaged and caring about the story.
The story develops the relationship between Desi and Lucy in a realistic way. It is authentic to who they were, the love they each had for the other but also the difficulties between them, including Desi’s jealousy over Lucy’s career and stardom, the travails he had being Cuban in Hollywood, and Lucy’s desire for a true home. Never once does the film sugarcoat their tempestuous love for each other but it also highlights the reasons they fell for each other and gives a true picture of who each of them was and how business savvy both of them were for the time.
The cast is stellar but it is Nicole Kidman who truly shines. This is her best performance and should hopefully win awards. She is pitch-perfect in her portrayal of Lucille Ball. She has her mannerisms, her tone of voice, her gestures, and she looks uncannily like Lucy in every scene. She imbues the role with the same wit, emotion, and excellence as Lucy herself and gives a profoundly excellent performance. Javier Bardem is as charming and intelligent as Desi Arnez, bringing style to the role. His emotions are as tangible in the role as Nicole Kidman. Beyond the leads, who are as perfect as it gets, the rest of the cast is equally amazing. J.K. Simmons might not look exactly like William Frawley but he has the portrayal very close to the man and his performance was humorous as well as wise. Nina Arianda as Vivian Vance was an excellent choice as she is beautiful with the same humor and wit. Tony Hale as Jess Oppenheimer was marvelous, Alia Shawkat is phenomenal, and Jake Lacey as Bob Carroll Jr is great. Even smaller performances among the cast are impressive.
I could find nothing to fault in the film. I absolutely loved Nicole Kidman, she was beautiful and perfect as Lucille Ball. Javier Bardem was realistic and charming as Desi Arnez. The story was intriguing, fun, witty, funny, and shared insight into the couple that I had not heard before. Even better, it showed their relationship in a real way. If you love Lucille Ball and Desi Arnez, then you should see this film. You will be in for a treat. It is impressive, one of the best films and most accurate portrayals of Lucille Ball that I have ever seen. If you watch no other films this year, I firmly believe you should see this movie.
Rating: 5 out of 5 episodes
Being the Ricardos
Lucille Ball (Nicole Kidman) and Desi Arnaz (Javier Bardem) are threatened by shocking personal accusations, a political smear and cultural taboos in Academy Award®-winning writer and director Aaron Sorkin’s behind-the-scenes drama Being the Ricardos. A revealing glimpse of the couple’s complex romantic and professional relationship, the film takes audiences into the writers’ room, onto the soundstage and behind closed doors with Ball and Arnaz during one critical production week of their groundbreaking sitcom I LOVE LUCY. Featuring J.K. Simmons and Nina Arianda. BEING THE RICARDOS opens exclusively in theaters on Friday, December 10, 2021, and launches on Amazon Prime on December 21, 2021.
ONE-LINER: During one production week of I LOVE LUCY — from Monday table read through Friday audience taping — Lucille Ball (Nicole Kidman) and Desi Arnaz (Javier Bardem) face a series of personal and professional crises that threaten their show, their careers and their marriage, in writer-director Aaron Sorkin’s behind-the-scenes drama.