When I heard about this documentary, I was beyond excited. I adored I Love Lucy on reruns when I was a child. I had also seen the fictionalized film Being the Ricardos and loved the bits of insight in the movie. What I was hoping for was that this documentary would bring even more enlightenment to the relationship between the two and their careers. Not only did it but it was a beautiful love story to the pair, full of respect and honoring the memory of both. It paid equal due to both Lucy and Desi and was incomparably excellent.
Directed by Amy Poehler and written by Mark Monroe, Lucy and Desi captures the complex love story of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz and everything in between including how their groundbreaking show I Love Lucy forever changed Hollywood, cementing Lucy’s legacy long after her death in 1989 and revealing Desi Arnaz’s own impact behind the scenes.
This documentary is one of the best that I’ve seen and there are several reasons why. One of the first is in how the material is put together. It is clear that the filmmakers worked with Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz’s family to gather important footage, including audiotapes of both Lucy and Desi. Using the audio to overlay the interviews with family, friends, and those who were inspired and mentored by Lucille Ball as well as television footage, news from the time, the material weaves together to create a clear picture of both the relationship between the two, their careers, and how important family was to both of them.
It is also the attention to detail that cements the authenticity of the film. The film guides us to both Lucy and Desi’s childhoods and the beginning of their careers. It shows clips of Lucy’s films, as she describes herself as not beautiful but willing to do work others weren’t. The truth is more apparent, that she was willing to work hard for her goals. The romance to each other is shown but also the harder truth, how difficult it was for both to have time together until they created the transformative television show that changed the face of Hollywood. Not only did I Love Lucy deal with concepts other shows and films didn’t but it revolutionized female roles and created an empire for Desi and Lucy, as they went on to create their own production company, Desilu Productions.
One of the other reasons to love this film is how balanced and realistic it is. While the film does tell Lucy’s side of her life first, it also gives space and time to Desi, sharing his struggles, his triumphs, and his genius with the production of I Love Lucy. Many of the groundbreaking changes that were innovated on the television show were created and put into place by Desi and the film does not stint in giving him credit where it is due. It certainly helps that both Lucie Arnaz and Desi Arnaz Jr. give commentary and share insights into their parents’ lives. And while Lucy’s life is told with love, the writers also share her foibles and her triumphs beyond comedy, including her mentorship of Carol Burnett and Bette Midler, the film sharing footage of both reflecting on Lucy. Both Lucy and Desi are given equal time but their personalities, good and bad, are shared honestly.
This is truly a love story to Lucy and Desi, sharing how innovative and visionary both of them were individually and a triumph together, even when they separated. And even at the end of their relationship, they stayed friends. They created some of the most brilliant comedies of all time and their company changed the world, creating a show that was one of the best of the twentieth century. And leading to some of the best television shows of all time. The film illustrates their hard work and talent, but most of all the love between the two. In the end, Desi is quoted as, “Lucy was the show, and it was never just a title.” Lucy and he not only were stars but created a world of stars. The movie brought me to tears and is a beautiful homage to Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. Amy Poehler has created a beautiful masterpiece of love.
Rating: 5 out of 5 inspirations.
Lucy and Desi
From director Amy Poehler, LUCY AND DESI explores the unlikely partnership and enduring legacy of one of the most prolific power couples in entertainment history. Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz risked everything to be together. Their love for each other led to the most influential show in the history of television, I Love Lucy. Desi – A refugee from Cuba after his family lost everything during the Cuban revolution of 1933, became a band leader, an actor and eventually a brilliant producer and technical pioneer. Lucille came from nothing and, with an unrivaled work ethic, built a career as a model, chorus girl and eventually as an actor in the studio system. She found her calling in comedy, first in radio. When Lucille was finally granted the opportunity to have her own television show, she insisted that her real-life spouse, Desi, be cast as her husband. Defying the odds, they re-invented the medium, on the screen and behind the cameras. The foundation of I LOVE LUCY was the constant rupture and repair of unconditional love. What Lucy and Desi couldn’t make work with each other, they gave to the rest of the world. LUCY AND DESI is an insightful and intimate peek behind the curtain of these two remarkable trailblazers – featuring interviews with Lucie Arnaz Luckinbill, Norman Lear, Desi Arnaz Jr, Carol Burnett and Bette Midler. LUCY AND DESI launches on Amazon Prime on Friday, March 4, 2022.
ONE-LINER: This film will explore the rise of comedian icon Lucille Ball, her relationship with Desi Arnaz, and how their groundbreaking sitcom I Love Lucy forever changed Hollywood, cementing her legacy long after her death in 1989.