Being the Ricardos (2021)
Have you ever wondered what a week in the production of the I Love Lucy show would be like? Have you ever wondered about Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz’s marriage? Have you ever wondered if Ball was secretly a communist? Well worry no longer, because Being the Ricardos is writer/director Aaron Sorkin’s ode to early television, the creative process, and recapturing something he was trying to articulate in his failed TV series, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. Yes, this feels like an especially long edition of that old show, with too many plotlines vying for attention like B-stories and C-stories for an episode of television, and several of them have curious conclusions. The storyline given such outward significance, whether or not Ball will be shunned as a possible communist in her youth, is wrapped up so anticlimactically and easily, and the storyline given such minimal coverage, Desi’s possible infidelity, is then given an ending that doesn’t feel nearly as setup to have its proper impact. The acting is another issue. Everyone is mostly good, but Kidman is no Lucille Ball, and while she doesn’t attempt a direct impression it’s still not a favorable comparison. Bardem is better as Arnaz but you can’t help but feel both actors are miscast. The supporting players, like J.K. Simmons as William Frawley, Nina Arianda as Vivian Vance, and Tony Hale as show creator Jess Oppenheimer, offer the more entertaining and insightful positions from the wings. Being the Ricardos feels like Sorkin trying to work his signature rat-a-tat snappy dialogue but missing a few rhythms, and part of that might be Sorkin serving as his own director for the third time. Director Sorkin plays everything too stately and serious, so even when the script is telling us these comedy writers are making a comedy show, the flow is off and everything is a little too self-important and reaching for culture war symbolic terms, reminiscent of, you guessed it, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. I guess my disappointment was not really getting to know more about Ball besides her perfectionism and underrated comedy savvy. This movie is just too busy with narrative devices; there are documentary-esque interviews with aged crew members in the future, a present-day storyline about workshopping one episode through a week’s schedule, and intermittent flashbacks to Lucy and Desi that can be confusing when past and present swap. Then there’s the black and white interludes of the show which are Lucy’s imagination of what may be? It’s a cluttered mess with pacing issues. You also get to watch Lucy and Desi have sex, which is like walking in on your parents. Being the Ricardos feels like an overly serious TV movie that’s too busy and scattered to remind itself that funny people can also be fun people.
Nate’s Grade: B-
Posted on December 5, 2021, in 2021 Movies and tagged aaron sorkin, drama, j.k. simmons, javier bardem, nicole kidman, oscars, period film, tony hale, TV show. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.