“Being The Ricardos” humanizes an icon of American comedy

LAKEVIEW (Dec 7, 2021) – No one tells a story like Aaron Sorkin tells a story.

In his latest film “Being the Ricardos”, the writer-director takes audiences on a week-long production of the hit 1950s sitcom “I Love Lucy”, raising the curtain on the complex real-life relationships between its actors and its creators.

Sorkin effortlessly spins multiple storyboards while rarely leaving the soundstage at Desilu Studios where “I Love Lucy” was filmed from 1951 to 1957, a time when several Hollywood performers were blackballed for alleged associations with the Communist Party. On Monday, when we meet Lucille Ball (Nicole Kidman), a report is about to break on her decades-old communist ties – a story that could destroy her legacy at the height of her comedy career.

And that’s the least of the problems she has to solve by Friday. Ball tries to keep both his hit show and his marriage to infamous philanderer Desi Arnaz (Javier Bardem) afloat, while also managing tensions with the show’s writers (played by Tony Hale, Jake Lacy and Alia Shawkat) and the other cast members (stars JK Simmons and Nina Arianda as actors who played Fred and Ethel Mertz).

Bardem, Simmons, Arianda and Kidman in “Being the Ricardos”. GLEN WILSON © AMAZON CONTENT SERVICES LLC

If that sounds like a lot, that’s because it is: a lot of pressure on Ball and a lot of story arcs to deal with. To another writer, the chocolates on the conveyor belt of “Being the Ricardos” may start to seem overwhelming – but Sorkin isn’t just another writer.

He wraps them all in a drastic cinematic way, as he has done over 100 times in “The West Wing,” as his lyrics do every night at the Shubert Theater in the Broadway production of “To Kill A Mockingbird. “.

But “Being the Ricardos” isn’t just for Sorkin fans, or “I Love Lucy,” or television history. It is certainly not for the cynics who come to see if Kidman can succeed in portraying an icon. She does, and that should never have been a question if she could.

Kidman is flawless in her portrayal of Ball, a daring businesswoman whose ability to express herself in a room full of condescending men also lives up to her comedic genius, which has brought back 60 million people for laugh every Monday. She draws a line between the two Lucies with amazing clarity, subtly describing both the comedy character and the real-life performer.

Bardem is also excellent in the role of Arnaz, her on-screen and off-screen husband. Sorkin expertly balances the current state of their show and marriage, while also explaining how they shaped the sentient power dynamics at play in their relationship. (The film is produced by the couple’s children, Lucie Arnaz and Desi Arnaz Jr.)

“Being the Ricardos” focuses on the title couple, but it gives Vivian Vance, Bill Frawley, and the writers their due, highlighting the meticulous writing of jokes and the group efforts that made “Lucy” so successful. emblematic piece in the history of television. The film also transparently shows that while Lucy was the star, she was also an uncredited writer and director long before women were allowed in such titles.

Lacy and Shawkat are the writers of “I Love Lucy” in Sorkin’s latest film. GLEN WILSON © AMAZON CONTENT SERVICES LLC

“Being the Ricardos” will satisfy fans of its subjects and creators. But it’s also quite entertaining for all audiences, and education for viewers who need to remember that those public figures we praise and pillory are human beings with complicated backgrounds. Sorkin has revived the origins of Facebook and Apple, the trials of a “poker princess” and Chicago 7. But he constantly finds humanity in everyone, reducing them to their basic human needs and wants. He often says that his projects don’t take pictures, they paint a picture; at a frantic and breathtaking pace, with branded dialogue and classic structure.

Lucy’s story is no different. Even in a movie built on tension, chaos, and personal pain, there’s still a lot to love.

“Being the Ricardos” opens December 10 at the Landmark Century Center cinema. It will begin streaming on December 21 on Amazon Prime Video.

Kidman and Bardem are Lucy and Desi. GLEN WILSON © AMAZON CONTENT SERVICES LLC

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