Being the Ricardos - A-
Rated R, 125 minutes
Acclaimed, award-winning director and writer Aaron Sorkin ("The West Wing," "The Social Network") brings a beloved, classic sitcom star to the big-screen in the fascinating, superbly acted and utterly enjoyable "Being the Ricardos." To those concerned about whether this would work with director and casting, this entertaining behind-the-scenes drama does so beautifully, and for those legions who loved Lucy will likely love this too.
Lucille Ball (Oscar-winner Nicole Kidman) and Desi Arnaz (Oscar-winner Javier Bardem) are threatened by shocking personal accusations, a political smear and cultural taboos, including when Lucy was accused of being a communist during one critical production week of Lucy & Desi's groundbreaking sitcom "I Love Lucy."
The sublimely crafted, affecting "Being the Ricardos" pops with energy and provides insight into Lucy and Desi's relationship as well as crucial insight into the production of "I Love Lucy." Director and writer Sorkin masterfully handles the story, which would come as no surprise, but it also answers the question, does it work with Kidman and Bardem as Lucy and Desi, respectively? The answer is a resounding yes, especially for Kidman in a transformational, Oscar-worthy turn as Lucy, and the movie is all hers. Bardem is also strong as Arnaz, also capturing his accent, look and mannerisms, even his musical talent.
Much of their story is a familiar one and well-documented, and Sorkin gives a fresh appeal, not only looking at "I Love Lucy," but also Lucy's early career as a supporting player in movies and radio shows before CBS saw enough potential for a hit TV show. Sorkin is most successful at capturing the look and feel of 1950's Hollywood with chaotic energy and humor. The sets, costumes, editing and photography (from Oscar-nominated Jeff Cronenworth, who's worked with Sorkin before); those who are familiar with "I Love Lucy" will note the sublime recreation of various episodes.
As with many of Sorkin's films, there's a bevy of memorable supporting players who round out a very strong cast: Oscar-winner J.K. Simmons as William Frawley (Fred Mertz), Nina Arianda as Vivian Vance (Ethel Mertz), not to mention the writing staff-a terrific Tony Hale (Veep) as producer and writer Jess Oppenheimer, Jake Lacy as Bob Carroll and Alia Shawkat as Madelyn Pugh, all who contributed to the success of the show. Various details such as Frawley and Vance's animosity toward each other, the producers insistence on keeping Vance "frumpy," Pugh's role in the writers room, and Lucy's perfectionism are all well-noted here. (One minor disappointment: it skims over Desi's affairs a little too easily.)
The film's first act fast-paced energy tapers off later in the second, and the third act turns serious as it focuses on Lucy's communist accusations, but the flow is handled well. Kidman, in a very studied performance, maybe almost too studied, but she captures many of Lucy's mannerisms and voice impressively that comes as a pleasant surprise, adding up to Kidman's strongest role in years. All said, this is Sorkin and Kidman at the top of their game, and don't be surprised if you see it again come awards time.
The highly entertaining "Being the Ricardos" is one of the most anticipated films of the year and also one of the most hyped, and it doesn't disappoint. This is the movie of the year, and one of my favorite films of 2021. You won't want to miss it.