I’ve been looking forward to Being the Ricardos for quite some time now. Not only am I a big fan of the classic black and white sitcom, I’m also a big fan of Nicole Kidman. Those two things alone were enough to get me excited and then I learned that Aaron Sorkin was directing! Those three things combined made this film an absolute must see for me. I’m immensely pleased to report that I was not let down at all by this. This film is expertly performed and very well written. I hope people give it the attention it deserves.
The central aspect of Being the Ricardos that needed to be nearly flawless were the performances by the main cast members. Without worthy performances by the actors playing these legends, this film would have been an embarrassing bust. But fear not, Nicole Kidman and Javier Bardem are able to tap into Lucille and Desi in a very convincing way.
Kidman has the voice and the no nonsense attitude down pat. Lucille Ball was known to be tough and a straight shooter and Kidman portrays that very well here. I also really liked her performance as Lucille playing Lucy Ricardo on the show. The notable voice change is well done and she’s able to recreate some famous I Love Lucy scenes in a convincing way.
Javier Bardem also does his role of Desi Arnaz justice. Bardem proves to be a worthy companion for Kidman and they’re able to play off each other well. It’s of course crucial that they have chemistry and luckily they do.
I must also praise Nina Arianda and J.K. Simmons for their entertaining and dedicated portrayals of Vivian Vance and William Frawley. I’m glad that Being the Ricardos gave both of them decent sized parts because as anyone who watched the show knows, they were very important.
I appreciated that both Arianda and Simmons got to have some nice moments to shine. Both of them have individual scenes with Kidman that cover some important ground. One of the details about this script that contributes in making this a success is the fact that all four of these castmates have scenes together that show both the tensions and the love they shared. There’s a bar scene between Kidman and Simmons that I found particularly interesting.
Another crucial script detail here is the balance between showing us Lucille and Desi’s personal life/marriage and the behind the scenes inner workings of the sitcom. Both of these things are given ample amount of screen time and I didn’t feel like either was neglected. The flashback scenes to Lucille and Desi’s past before the sitcom are also interesting. They give us a look at how Lucille’s film career had taken a nose dive before I Love Lucy. There’s a scene between her and a studio executive at RKO where he tells her they’re dropping her contract and as someone who loves behind the scenes of Hollywood, this was very intriguing to me.
They also cover the big real life scandal that unfolded about Lucille Ball being accused of being a Communist. They handle this well and it contributes in making the film’s ending climactic. The ending works both because of that and how it plays out and because of some revelations about Lucille and Desi’s marriage.
There’s a split tone to the final couple of scenes and that contrast really works. You think they’re going to wrap things up nicely with a bow but reality sneaks in at last minute. They chose to end things with a bang and I appreciated that, it made the film as a whole more affective.
There’s really only one thing about this film that I wasn’t totally onboard with and that’s the documentary style interviewing of what’s supposed to be people who worked on I Love Lucy giving their takes on things. At first I wasn’t even sure who these folks were supposed to be and I just think at the end of the day it was unnecessary. This doesn’t by any means hurt the film in a large way, I just think it was the one detail that didn’t work well.
Being the Ricardos is a film deserving of much praise for its fine tuned performances, well written script, and hair/makeup. Give this a view at your local theater or log onto Amazon Prime!
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