Aaron Sorkin‘s latest film Being the Ricardos starring Nicole Kidman, Javier Bardem, Tony Hale, J.K. Simmons, Jake Lacy, Alia Shawkat, Nina Arianda, and Clark Gregg is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video.
Aaron Sorkin is a witty writer that knows how to put his characters in high-pressure situations that feel uncomfortable but ultimately offers up high entertainment for his audience. As a director, Sorkin’s choices may seem less than remarkable at times, but he continues to shine through in his writing.
Being the Ricardos is a biopic centered in, not on Lucille Ball’s entire career (that movie would be far too long), but over the course of a singular week in her career. Pulling back the curtain on Hollywood and the smoke and mirrors of ~showbiz~, it also tackles 1950s politics including the Red Scare and McCarthyism.
Nicole Kidman plays a very convincing Lucille Ball. Leading up to its release, and even after the official first looks and trailers debuted, there was speculation as to whether or not Kidman was equipped as an actress to play Ball. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that she disappears into the role to the point she’s unrecognizable, but Kidman delivers a confident but casual performance as the “I Love Lucy” star. Honestly, it would’ve been very easy for her to play up the iconic high-pitched voice and big, red hair, but I’m glad she opted to interpret the icon into her own version of the character rather just than a low-level imitation.
Javier Bardem’s character is obviously essential to the storyline, but I never felt particularly upset at Desi for being unfaithful or for his lack of involvement in his relationship with Lucy. I wish he would’ve given me more of a reason to care one way or another. His connection to the character felt very strong in terms of how he pulled off the appearance and the accent, but I wanted a bit more chemistry between Bardem and Kidman.
While Kidman and Bardem are the stars of the show — and stars of this film — J.K. Simmons, Alia Shawkat, Jake Lacy, Nina Arianda, and Tony Hale provide the backbone and the heart of it all. Between Lucy and Desi’s back-and-forth bantering, these actors and their characters give us a look at all of the intricacies of what was going on during the production of “I Love Lucy” and how they kept the show afloat during a challenging period. Those segments were actually the most interesting to me.
I was drawn into the parts dealing with how the writers’ room formulated the best-performing show on television. I wanted to see how Lucy spoke up during the run-through of the script. While I understand that didn’t provide the high-level stakes necessary for a full film, they were undoubtedly important to the context.
Visually speaking, Sorkin’s artistic flair as a director soars when he juxtaposes black-and-white segments of what made it on TV as “I Love Lucy” paired with the scene-setting and writing of the scripts. Where he falters a bit is when he throws in segments that bring this biopic a bit more into the documentary realm with actors playing older versions of the “I Love Lucy” writers looking back on their time working on the show. It causes a bit of confusion because these are actors — Ronny Cox and Linda Lavin — not actually the writers themselves. It felt distracting and unnecessary, and it drew the attention away from what was actually going on in the movie.
As someone who has a very basic surface level knowledge of Lucille Ball and “I Love Lucy,” this film made Ball’s career, her relationship with Desi, and the personal and political implications on the show’s production really digestible and easily understood.
Being the Ricardos is at its best when it gets past the relationship drama going on between Lucy and Desi, delving into the inner-workings of “I Love Lucy” and peeling back the glitz and glamour of showbiz. It can get uneven, and some parts are especially stronger than others, but it is nonetheless an interesting look at a chaotic week in the life of everyone involved with “I Love Lucy.”