tv & movies

‘Being the Ricardos’ movie review: Nicole Kidman is a revelation as the no-nonsense Lucille Ball

Aaron Sorkin’s biopic is a fun, if superficial look at a specific time and space in show business

What does it take to be the Ricardos? According to Aaron Sorkin’s biopic, Being the Ricardos, it takes a lot of hard work and sweating over details to create and sustain a successful sitcom and a marriage. People of a certain vintage might dimly remember watching I Love Lucy on Doordarshan many griefs ago.

The American sitcom detailed the adventures of Lucy Ricardo, played by the first lady of television, Lucille Ball, with her real-life husband, Desi Arnaz, playing her musician husband Ricky Ricardo. The sitcom, which aired from 1951 to 1957 over 180 episodes and six seasons, showed Lucy, plotting with her friends, Ethel (Vivian Vance) and Fred Mertz (William Frawley), to enter showbiz.

Aaron Sorkin (The Trial of the Chicago 7), who has also written Being the Ricardos, focuses on a tumultuous week (historians say it did not all happen in one week) in the power couple’s life as they are assailed on different fronts. From table read to the final performance before a live audience, Being the Ricardos follows Lucille (Nicole Kidman) as she fends off allegations of being a Communist and tries to find out the truth behind the rumours of Arnaz’s (Javier Bardem) unfaithfulness.

Being the Ricardos

  • Director: Aaron Sorkin
  • Cast: Nicole Kidman, Javier Bardem, J. K. Simmons, Nina Arianda, Tony Hale, Alia Shawkat, Jake Lacy, Clark Gregg
  • Story line: A week of great personal and professional turmoil for Lucille Ball unfolds on the sets of ‘I Love Lucy’
  • Run time: 131 minutes

In the writer’s room, she goes through each joke with a fine-tooth comb with the writers: Jess (Tony Hale), Bob Carroll Jr. (Jake Lacy, horrid Shane from The White Lotus) and Madelyn Pugh (Alia Shawkat). She also challenges director Donald Glass’s (Christopher Denham) decisions with the authority of knowing what works and what does not.

There are flashbacks of how Lucille met Arnaz, their passionate romance, how Lucille was a talented actor who somehow did not break into lead roles, her move to radio and television as well as Arnaz’s skill and innovation in staging I Love Lucy, which became the template for sitcoms.

Nicole Kidman is the star of Being the Ricardos and she has a great deal of fun as the no-nonsense Ball, the thorough professional, who knows the sweat and tears involved in making a comedy work. She knows exactly how much she is worth to the studio as she says, “I am the biggest asset in the portfolio of the Columbia Broadcasting System.”

Kidman also brings out the vulnerability and insecurity of Lucille’s deep love for her husband, Arnaz. Bardem, (there have been murmurs against casting the Spanish Bardem as the Cuban Arnaz) is an able foil to Kidman as are J. K. Simmons as William Frawley and Nina Arianda as Vivian Vance.

Meticulous period detailing creates a window into the excitement of the nascent world of television in the 1950s as well as the dread of Red Scare. While it does not have the kinetic energy of Chicago 7, Being the Ricardos is a fun, if superficial look at a specific time and space in show business.

Being the Ricardos is currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video

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