Director: Aaron Sorkin
Writer: Aaron Sorkin
Starring: Nicole Kidman, Javier Bardem, J.K. Simmons, Nina Arianda, Tony Hale, Alia Shawkat, Jake Lacy, and Clark Greg
The latest film from Aaron Sorkin is based on Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, and production of the classic sitcom that they both starred in, I love lucy. It’s an attempt to capture who they were as people, the strains on their relationship and the journey an episode goes through from the table read to the final production.
Being the Ricardos follows Lucille Ball (Nicole Kidman) as she’s navigating one of the most stressful weeks of her life. She’s struggling with the episode they are currently making, being questioned about whether she has ties to the communist party, as well as dealing with rumours about her husband, Desi (Javier Bardem), cheating on her.
In reality those three events didn’t happen in the same week, but over several years. Sorkin has condensed history to add on the drama and intensity of the story. The film is also littered with flashbacks showing not only how Lucille and Desi met, but also her life up to the beginning of I love Lucy. The film attempts to paint a picture of her career up to that hit show, with broad strokes and largely it works. It gives you a good idea of who she was, her life and why the show was popular in the first place. It’s a contrast of the highs and lows, shown side by side throughout. It’s completely welcoming to people who have no idea about I Love Lucy, or its leading couple. It plays more like an introduction to, rather than a drama, at points.
Nicole Kidman and Javier Bardem are really great in the film. They are completely believable at all points throughout the relationship, from the lovestruck beginnings to the strained endings of their marriage. They both work really well with Sorkin’s script, which is filled with his usual punchy and energetic dialogue that he’s so well known for. Bardem is charming, and perfectly cast. Kidman is exceptional throughout, giving one of her best performances to date. She’s completely in control as Lucille who is an incredibly important figure in the history of TV. Kidman deserves some nominations for her performance.
When the film works, it’s borderline magic. It’s filled with a nostalgia for the 1950s, especially the simple sitcom, while not shying away from the darker side of the era and life. The fear of communism is felt throughout, especially in the opening scenes, there’s hints of the racism that Desi would have had to face. Sadly, as there are so many plates being spun, the film does feel bloated in places. There are a lot of threads, from the three main issues facing the couple are facing, to side characters clashing, and the flashbacks. Most unneeded of all is the flash-forwards to the writers of I love Lucy talking about the week as if this was a documentary. At first, it’s quirky and charming, but there’s no reason for it to be there. The film is too long and that could have been cut completely.
It’s completely overpacked with ideas, to the point that you almost forget about some completely. Minor spoiler warning if you can spoil real life for people. Desi cheating on Lucille feels like a sub-plot that’s lost for most of the film, before becoming a big ‘gotcha’ moment right at the end, and then the final moments revolve around it. There’s just too much going on, Sorkin threw everything at the script and not enough fell to the wayside. If the story was tighter then the film would connect a lot more.
Being the Ricardos is so close to being an excellent film and a highlight of 2021. The overload of story is a real shame, because it detracts from the wonderful dialogue and excellent performances from the leading cast. It’s still a good film and deserves to be watched for Kidman alone.
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