Directed by: Aaron Sorkin
Premise: Based on true events. Set in 1952, I Love Lucy stars Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz produce their weekly sitcom while coping with multiple crises. Ball is accused of being a member of the communist party and Arnaz is alleged to have cheated on his wife.
What Works: Being the Ricardos is primarily a show business story about the behind-the-scenes drama of one of American television’s most iconic sitcoms. The movie dramatizes a stressful week in the making of I Love Lucy in which the cast and crew faced concurrent crises. The strongest aspect of Being the Ricardos is the production of the show and the conflicts that arise out of the creative process. The picture focuses on Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz and their roles in making the show the success that it was. Ball, played by Nicole Kidman, is portrayed as a brilliant performer and the filmmakers visualize her process. Much of Being the Ricardos focuses on Ball’s obsessive attention to detail and her sometimes combative relationships with the writers, costars, and director.Kidman brings forward Lucille Ball’s intelligence which is an interesting contrast with the dunce she played on the show. Javier Bardem plays Desi Arnaz, the co-lead and the showrunner of I Love Lucy. The film emphasizes Arnaz’s business acumen and the way he maintained creative control of the show. In all, Being the Ricardos is a monument to the skill and labor required to make a successful comedy. This film was both written and directed by Aaron Sorkin’s and this is his best directorial effort so far. It’s more disciplined and less self-indulgent than some of Sorkin’s other work and the screen direction is very kinetic.
What Doesn’t: Being the Ricardos has been criticized for its manipulation of history. The film condenses these various crises into a single week but it’s operating within the norms of dramatic license. The film is saddled with a lot of backstory and asides. There are a few minor side stories that are introduced but don’t go anywhere, such as concerns about Vivian Vance’s (Nina Arianda) weight loss and an extended flashback to Ball’s career at RKO. The picture also includes cutaway interviews to actors playing older versions of the I Love Lucy crew commenting on the events of the film. Most of these scenes are done well in and of themselves but they distract the movie’s focus without adding to the story. The interviews are especially unnecessary. These adjacent stories come at the cost of the communism conflict which mostly disappears from the story for the duration of the movie.
DVD extras: Available on Amazon Prime.
Bottom Line: Being the Ricardos is a layered dramatization about the making of one of television’s most popular programs. It’s a little overstuffed with subplots and characters but the picture moves along briskly and its backstage drama is compelling.
Episode: #886 (January 9, 2022)