The Reel Review

C

It one chaotic week in 1953, Lucille Ball learns she is pregnant, is accused of being a communist, and comes across a tabloid story claiming her husband Desi Arnaz has been cheating on her – all of this while filming their wildly popular comedy TV series, I Love Lucy. Such is the premise of writer/director Aaron Sorkin’s biopic starring Nicole Kidman and Javier Bardem.

Alia Shawkat, Nicole Kidman and Nina Arianda in Being the Ricardos.

Sorkin (The Trial of the Chicago 7, The West Wing) again showcases his distinctive, quick-dialogued, staccato writing style. And while that fits well enough with this behind the scenes drama about the clever, iconic comedy TV series, Sorkin’s directing is another story. Sorkin packs his already overcrowded story with mockumentary-style interviews with older versions of I Love Lucy‘s production crew, and adds disjointed time jumps in the third act. It is very bizarre and confusing and distracts from his narrative, which reads like a jumbled Wikipedia article.

Nicole Kidman as Lucille Ball filming I Love Lucy’s iconic grape stomping scene in Being the Ricardos.

The 1950s period production design is well done and Oscar winners Kidman (The Hours) and Bardem (No Country for Old Men) do a solid job as Lucy and Desi, with an exceptionally strong supporting cast that includes Alia Shawkat (Arrested Development) as show writer Madelyn Pugh and Oscar winner JK Simmons (Whiplash) and Tony winner Nina Arianda (Venus in Fur) as I Love Lucy cast members William Frawley and Vivian Vance, who play Fred and Ethel on the comedy series.

But sadly, with a runtime that is at least 30 minutes too long, Sorkin manages the rare feat of making Being the Ricardos both nerve wracking and surprisingly boring to watch. Lucy’s legacy deserves way better than this.

REEL FACTS

• Prior to Nicole Kidman signing onto the project, Cate Blanchett had been in discussions since 2017 to play Lucille Ball in the film.

• The three story elements profiled in Being the Ricardos – the pregnancy, the communism story and reports about Arnaz’s cheating – all happened, but in different years. Sorkin added them together to create drama.

Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz in 1955.

• In 1962, two years after she divorced Desi Arnaz, Lucille Ball bought out his shares of Desilu, making her the first woman CEO of a major Hollywood production company.

 

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