Take a minute and think about the makers of a TV show that millions of people watch and adore every week. They bring laughter and merriment to people’s homes with every episode, and there’s attention to detail in the making of every episode that translates into some of the most iconic moments in all of comedy. Being the Ricardos, the latest work by writer / director Aaron Sorkin (The Chicago 7 trial), imagines all of these things for the show “I Love Lucy”, its creators Lucille Ball (Nicole Kidman) and Desi Arnaz (Javier Bardem), and the group of writers, producers and others involved in keeping the show week after week for CBS. And yes, watching a behind-the-scenes profile of making a great TV episode can be interesting and even dramatic, but Sorkin challenges his audience even more by wondering what the job was like for this team that was trying to go up. an episode of “I Love Lucy” during arguably the worst week of Ball and Arnaz’s life so far.
I have no idea if this perfect storm of events actually happened in the same week, and frankly, I don’t care. But I know these are all things the married showrunners dealt with at the start of the show, and they probably all get mixed up in mind. At the start of the movie, a gossip journal ran a story about Desi getting a little too friendly with another woman on a weekend boat trip with friends. The photo used in the play is six months old, so Lucy is almost at peace with the fact that this particular story isn’t true. She also reveals to the network that she is pregnant and wants to make pregnancy part of the show, rather than hiding behind laundry baskets and bulky clothes until the end of the season. They could have made an extremely interesting movie about this now famous TV breakthrough, IMHO.
But the real threat to the show’s future is that in a blind item to Walter Winchell’s popular radio show, he effectively accuses Ball of being a Communist. She’s not, but years earlier, to honor someone very close to her, she had ticked a box on a form indicating it. More than anything else in the early 1950s, this is what worries CBS (represented in the film by a small team of executives, led by Clark Gregg) and the series sponsor most.
Being the Ricardos talks about this critical week in the history of the show’s debut, and he uses these incidents as a way to weave the story of Lucy and Desi’s professional and personal history, and how they used the talent and strength of the other to bolster their profile and become the reigning king and queen of television for most of the decade. But Sorkin, having made his debut in the world as a writer, can’t resist the temptation to dive deep into the writers’ room of âI Love Lucyâ to watch how an episode and an entire season was conceived. Tony Hale stars as executive producer of the show Jess Oppenheimer, working with head writers Madelyn Pugh (Alia Shawkat) and Bob Carroll (Jake Lacy), each vying for credit for individual jokes and episode ideas like characters in their own sitcom.
“I Love Lucy” would be just a half-show without neighbors Fred (William Frawley, played to slightly drunken perfection by JK Simmons) and Ethel (Vivian Vance, played by Nina Arianda, which is a highlight of all. movie, playing the injured Vance as a gifted actor trying to figure out what it is about his appearance that simply makes the world accept that the much younger Ethel would never fall in love with Fred). Granted, the nuts and bolts of a show being built are the best material here, but that doesn’t make the stories of Red Scare, personal scandal, and pregnancy any less interesting. In many ways, the movie comes down to whether Lucy can accept that she and Desi work better and have a higher chance of being successful as a team than individually, and so she may be forced to ignore his banter, s’ they are genuine. The film is filled with these heartbreaking choices, especially since they are juxtaposed with moments in their courtship, when they couldn’t tire of each other or keep their clothes on when they were in the same. room. His nighttime schedule as a nightclub artist and touring musician didn’t quite match his job as a daytime filmmaker, but they were so in love they made it work.
Being the Ricardos features an odd framing device, that of three older actors (Linda Lavin, Ronny Cox, and John Rubinstein) playing Pugh, Carroll, and Oppenheimer more recently and interviewed by Je ne sais quoi, presumably for a bit more insight of the moments. But the commentary isn’t used enough to be particularly illuminating, when it is just used enough to be an obnoxious distraction when it does appear. When one of those interviews popped up I literally found myself thinking, ‘Oh yeah, they do that. Why? âI still don’t have an answer for you; it’s not enough to ruin the movie, but it does slow things down a bit.
That being said, what shines the most is the performance. Kidman’s decision not to use prosthetic makeup (as Jessica Chastain did in Tammy Faye’s eyes) and going only for traditional makeup and hair was a solid decision, especially when the bulk of her impression of Lucille Ball lies in her precise voice choices. She actually uses two voices: Lucy Ricardo’s slightly abrasive cackle and Ball’s normal voice, which is capable of more than just making people laugh. Arnaz de Bardem has more energy and complexity than I would have imagined, and he completely convinced me of his interpretation. More importantly, when the two are together, they sell the complicated dynamics of their personal and professional lives together. The dangers of any marriage they face are compounded by always being in the public eye, and that seems to be at the heart of their issues.
The drama and the tension in Being the Ricardos is palpable; the glimpse behind the making of the show is fascinating; and the interpersonal web is sometimes devastating, sometimes inspiring. Aside from questioning some of the storytelling devices and structure of the film, most of what is here works wonders and has touched me in ways that I hadn’t anticipated.
The film is now in theaters and will begin airing on Amazon Prime Video on December 21.
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Categories: Film, Critic, Screens