Film Review – Being the Ricardos (Second Take)
Being The Ricardos (Second Take)
I would hope that everyone has some connection to I Love Lucy. Mine was watching it after school or on the weekends. It was one of those rare shows that I didn’t mind that it was in black and white. The character of Lucy will forever be funny; she has an enduring comedic style and timing that should always be appreciated and enjoyed. I’ve seen the dramatic TV movie on Lucile Ball and Desi Arnaz; drama behind the camera was ripe for the pickings.
Aaron Sorkin, director and screenwriter, managed to create a film that illuminates a short time in behind-the-scenes drama at I Love Lucy. Being the Ricardos (2021) is not a dramatic life story of the famous couple. Sorkin smartly chose a tumultuous week at the show and brought in flashbacks to give background on the famous people at its center and their motivations. It has a documentary-style feeling with intercut fake interviews with the writers and the executive producer long after the show ended. Most of the film takes place on a sound stage or dressing rooms, keeping the famous show at its center. Within these settings, we learn who Lucille “Lucy” Ball (Nicole Kidman) and Desi Arnaz (Javier Bardem) are as a couple, individually, and the inner workings of the show.
While the film has the approval of Lucy and Desi’s children, what is depicted in the film could be hearsay. Taking that into account, it depicts Lucy as being the brains of the show, whether other people liked it or not. She criticized how Lucy was portrayed in the series, jokes that wouldn’t work, and just reading the script; she already was mapping the scene out in her head. She’s methodical, demands the best, and has to control herself from stepping over people to get what she wants. Above everything, she is still a woman, and she constantly has to prove herself even though she had already proven herself many times over. She had the drive to succeed and still have a family life, which doesn’t always mix well. Nicole Kidman embraced this passionate portrayal of Lucy in every aspect, and it shows not only in her altered voice but also in the physical embodiment of her.
On the other hand, there is Desi Arnaz, the husband who often played second fiddle to his wife. Considering the time period, there is the potential that Desi found Lucy’s power to be emasculating. The guy is in charge no matter if he doesn’t pull his weight. As depicted in this film, Desi and Lucy were often at odds on the show. Lucy ruffled feathers, and Desi smoothed them back down. In some instances, it appeared that he could be a figurehead, given such because Lucy wanted to empower her husband and make him happy. Javier Bardem personified the relaxed and joyful elements of Desi’s personality. He smiled a lot, cracked jokes, and honestly wasn’t too bothered by controversy even though it threatened his and his wife’s careers.
One glaring problem with the film is the altering of Nicole Kidman’s face to resemble Lucille Ball. While there was controversy when her casting was announced, Kidman has an illustrious acting career that made me not doubt her capability. However, the film production used prosthetics that eliminated some ability to show expressions as well as giving her face a plastic look. I wondered if they decided to alter Kidman’s face in response to the controversy or if this was originally planned. Had they left Kidman’s face alone and just put a wig on her and some makeup, her performance would have been better. A glaring issue with altering Kidman’s face is that no one else’s face had prosthetics applied to it, as far as I could tell, not even Bardem’s. She was the odd woman out for such a transformation, and it was unnecessary.
Being the Ricardos proves to be an enlightening film about a bygone era’s power couple. Adding to its allure is the inclusion of Vivian Vance (Nina Arianda) and William Frawley (J.K. Simmons) and the writers and studio heads that were essential parts of the show. I want to use that phrase “I was today years old” with the film revealing (at least to me) that Phillip Morris financed the show. For focusing on such a narrow portion of time in the show’s long success, it felt encompassing of more than one week given the flashbacks that informed choices made by Lucy and Desi in the film’s present. I regret that Lucy’s obvious genius is overshadowed by Sorkin having Desi depicted as the show’s savior in the end. There is a fluidity in this couple’s gender roles, a give and take of both success and being the underachiever. It was a constant fight to put each other in the best light, which did not always come with mutual respect in all aspects of their lives.