If there was ever a Mount Rushmore constructed for television, it is likely that Lucille Ball would be a unanimous vote to grace it. Her show I Love Lucy pioneered sitcoms in both their format and technical advancements. She was the first woman to be pregnant on television and took no crap from anyone. Her life is too legendary to condense into a two hour film but writer/director Aaron Sorkin along with actress Nicole Kidman recently took on the task in Amazon Prime’s Being the Ricardos.
Set during a tumultuous week during production of I Love Lucy, the film opens with Ball being seemingly outed as a Communist by the House Un-American Activities Committee. For a brief history lesson, this Committee was formed to root out suspected Communists from all aspects of American life specifically Hollywood as actors, screenwriters, producers and directors were all hauled in to testify in front of Congress and give names of other Communists. While Ball herself admitted to being a Communist but had not attended any meetings, the Committee had cleared her but was not cleared by the bloodthirsty press who looked for Communists at every turn. Ball had relished being the woman who went against the grain by not settling for bit roles, lobbying for her husband alongside her and by perfecting her craft as a comedic genius.
Sorkin does an amazing job of dropping us into the world of 1950’s Hollywood and the relationship between Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball. Their relationship is mostly told via flashbacks thus continuing Sorkin’s growing reliance on the storytelling technique. Tracking his films beginning with The Social Network, the length of these sequences and the number of them used has increased dramatically and at times, throw off the pacing of several scenes. For the sake of the film and its overall story, it is not entirely essential to see the story of Lucy being dropped from her RKO contract.
It’s certainly easy to see why Sorkin chose this particular week in Lucy’s life to bring to the screen. On top of being publicly outed as a Communist, she found out she was pregnant and had to lobby CBS to allow her to appear on the show great with child and had to deal with one of the many allegations surrounding Desi’s infidelities. It’s in this relationship with Nicole Kidman and fellow Oscar winner Javier Bardem where the film truly shines as we never once doubt that these two immensely talented individuals love each other but at the end of the day, Desi doesn’t want to be outdone by his wife and Lucy just wants the idyllic life that she shows to millions of Americans every week.
Being the Ricardos is an intimate look at the intricacies of making one of America’s most beloved television shows; Vivian Vance’s and William Frawley’s animosity towards each other is thick, Luck’s comedic talents are on full display as she often knows better than her young directors on what is truly funny and what audiences will laugh at, Desi’s ego stroking and keen eye for entertainment go to war with the forces that seek to constantly tear them down. This film is also pure Sorkin; the politics, the walk & talk scenes and an entertaining spin on American history and is able to get the absolute best out of Oscar winners who give award worthy performances.
VERDICT: 3.5 garden shears out of 5
Featured Image Credit: Amazon Original