Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz are threatened by shocking personal accusations, a political smear, and cultural taboos during one critical production week of their groundbreaking sitcom, I LOVE LUCY.
THE GOOD STUFF
NICOLE KIDMAN- She’s an actress who’s been around for so long and has done many experiences (both good and bad) for film and television. She is very prolific and comes out with several projects in any given year. She works so often that it would take some time to narrow her best performances to a top 10 list, especially if you’re considering all of her film and TV. That being said, I can only imagine that taking on the challenge of portraying Lucille Ball in a Sorkin-written film is about as daunting of a task as one can ask an actress, but Kidman is extraordinary here. They recreate scenes from the TV show with her and Bardem, and those scenes are where you see the true greatness of her performance.
This performance is in her top 10. I don’t know where it would be in her top 10. But it’s there.
JAVIER BARDEM- More than any performance he has ever done, Bardem’s performance as Desi Arnaz makes him look like a bona fide movie star. Not the chameleon character actor or the seething loathsome villain like we are used to seeing from him. Bardem’s portrayal of Desi Arnaz is the physical manifestation of old-school swag. He is the coolest and most commanding mofo in any scene that he’s in, and he’s actually funny as well (at least in the snarky Sorkin dialogue sort of way), which is something that I can’t remember him being on screen.
The man can do everything. He’s one of the very best actors in the game right now, hands down.
THE BAD STUFF
SCENE TRANSITIONS- One simply can not ignore how sloppy the execution is when it comes to the passing of time in this film:
- At the beginning of the second act, there’s a lot of conversation about Lucy’s upcoming pregnancy, and how the sponsors, Christian households, and the network itself would respond to depicting a pregnancy on television in a time like 1953…
… Only for us the audience to never see Lucy while she’s pregnant at all during the film…
… And then all of a sudden even LATER in the film she’s holding a baby, and calling it her son…
- There’s a seemingly important moment where Lucille Ball lands a MAJOR role (in the Irving Reis film THE BIG STREET) that other prime starlets of the time had to turn down due to scheduling conflicts…
… Which leads to many conversations about how this role will both positively impact the career of Lucille Ball, and quite possibly jeopardize her marriage due to the lengthy time away from her husband…
… Only for her to get called into an office later in the film, to discuss the AFTERMATH of the aforementioned 8-week shoot, with virtually no indication on the screen of anything in her life-changing at all…
THE DINNER TABLE SETUP- A large part of what this movie does quite brilliantly is give the notion that when it comes to executing physically comedic scenes in a sitcom, Lucille Ball was kind of a chess player. As the setup to a joke is pitched to her, she sees a scene play in her head. It’s a wonderful gimmick that they refer to repeatedly, and given the reputation of Lucille Ball, it makes sense.
One of the scenes that she is hell-bent on fixing involves a dinner scene. A scene (from season 1, episode 22) in which the original blocking is shown played out to its full extent in the film, from there, it’s spoken about in detail between the other cast members in multiple scenes…all to see Lucy remix the whole scene into something that is conceptually funnier…
Only to have the remixed scene not playout for the viewer to see on screen. It’s a lot of buildup with no payoff. It’s also something that DID NOT NEED TO BE HERE. It exists mostly to have side characters get something to talk about. A waste of a lot of screen time.
THE UGLY STUFF
THE DESI ARNAZ INTRO SCENE SETUP- Even more integral to the story is a breakdown of a Desi Arnaz intro scene where he comes up behind Lucy, puts his hands around her eyes, says, guess who? And Lucy starts naming off wrong names. That’s it. That’s the scene.
And for some F****** reason, this film goes into painstaking detail, through multiple, lengthy, Aaron Sorkin style conversations with a large number of characters in the cast… about why the scene is executed incorrectly.
The climax of the buildup for this is the literal last scene in the film. This film has a pretty impressive true to form Sorkin-esque last twenty minutes, which is ultimately topped off by the highly melodramatic horrendous daytime soap opera-type conclusion of THIS setup. Ridiculousness.
Ultimately, BEING THE RICARDOS is an okay film that is HIGHLY elevated by home run performances by Kidman and Bardem. Both are certain for recognition in what is starting to become a crowded field of Oscar-worthy performances.
BEING THE RICARDOS is currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video.