“Luuuuuucy… I’m Home.”
Probably one of the most timeless, classic lines that is still uttered today. But behind the scenes of not only the “I Love Lucy” show itself, but the marriage between Lucy and Desi itself, was a very tumultuous relationship. This is the story of one week in the lives of these two larger than life characters known worldwide then, and still today.
So let’s get the elephant out of the room right off. Nicole Kidman does not look like Lucille Ball. Javier Bardem does not look like Desi Arnaz. Whether you choose to overlook this and instead concentrate on the performances and story itself, is up to each individual watching “Being the Ricardos”. As well, it was nothing as I thought it would be, hence Being the Ricardos is not a funny comedy like the show was, and while yes, it’s hard to fathom a film about Ball that isn’t at least accidentally a bit funny, Sorkin’s biopic instead, focuses his lens on the couple through one particular tumultuous week in their lives as a married couple, their very well known marital problems, as well as being co-TV superstars. And we can also be honest enough to say “should seen it coming” as comedy is not really Sorkin’s bag.
As for Lucy herself – well she was at the time, Hollywood’s most bankable comic genius. Ball was the biggest TV star on earth, a massive moneymaking machine whose eye for physical comedy was like no other. Those working on the then biggest soundstage at the infamous Desilu Studios, in the writers room around her — Co-stars Vivian Vance (Nina Arianda), William Frawley (J.K. Simmons), Jess Oppenheimer (Tony Hale), Madelyn Pugh (Alia Shawkat) and a bland Bob Carroll (Jake Lacy), who contribute to a fractured work dynamic that is on the verge of collapse due to a leaked news story about Lucy being a member of the Communist Party. On top of that, pictures of Desi appeared front page of the biggest of all tabloids at the time, the Confidential, with another woman. And to add the icing to the cake, Lucy is pregnant and both her and Desi want to televise her pregnancy as part of the show – something that just wasn’t done in those times. These were the days when married couples still had separate beds on TV. So a very big deal indeed.
While writer-director Aaron Sorkin places three different events in the same week – but did they take all actually take place during the same week? Not really knowing much about all the events of the time, doing a little research paid off in droves to find out the following points of fact:
Point #1. The Walter Winchell accusation about Lucille Ball being a Communist took place on September 6, 1953. This accusation is what kicks off the events in the film.
Point #2. Lucille’s second pregnancy with her and Desi’s son, Desi Arnaz Jr. who was actually born on January 19, 1953. This would make the pregnancy announcement actually being made at some point around July of 1952.
Point #3. Desi’s cheating scandal plastered on the front of Confidential tabloid as the magazine was considered to be THE gossip magazine of the 1950’s – well, yes, they did run an article about Desi cheating on Lucy. The film implies the photo was from six months before, but the truth is that the affair had happened many years before. The article also ran as the cover story of the January 1955 issue versus the same week as everything above was listed.
So all this has of course been taken the liberty of making it all more intense of a week than what probably really happened. Look, there’s no denial that Lucy and Desi had their marital problems, nor is there any doubt about the complex (to put it nicely) relationship between the two in their private and professional lives. However, Sorkin just tries to combines too many incidents in telling this story and while we all love going behind the scenes of TV and film stories, Being the Ricardos just goes about this the wrong way.
The performances though are all quite on par. Kidman actually really comes through as Ball, even doing one of the most favourited Lucy shows of all time, the stomping of the grapes. Bardem as well, let’s you know that while Lucy is always front and center, he is the true head of the show. Nina Arianda really comes through as Vivian Vance showing how things really were for her as being the side-kick of the show and her resentment of being so much younger than her ‘show husband’. As well, when does J.K. Simmons not come through with a character performance and he does so here on point.
With good performances like these they could have left the taking of liberties with the timeline of the story itself seem unnecessary and might have been better served if staying a little more to the actual true timeline it really was, rather than trying to push making a tense drama of it all happening at once. In essence a more cohesive biographical telling of the story of such icons would have been enough.
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Review Screening ~ Courtesy of Ginsberg/Libby PR
BEING THE RICARDOS opens in theaters Friday, December 10th and debuts on Amazon Prime Video December 21, 2021.