‘Being The Ricardos‘ is a biopic directed and written by Aaron Sorkin. It was made by Escape Artists Productions and Amazon Studios, who released it on Prime Video after a short theatrical run.
In 1952, ‘I Love Lucy‘ is at the height of its popularity with sixty million viewers tuning in to see Desi Arnaz (Javier Bardem) and Lucille Ball (Nicole Kidman) portray Lucy and Ricky. Despite the success, the media accuses Lucy of being a commie, prompting CBS exec Howard Wenke (Clark Gregg) and his cronies pressure the show’s staff to keep quiet about the scandal. At the same time, Lucy discovers she is pregnant, but when she tells executive producer Jess Oppenheimer (Tony Hale), writer Madelyn Pugh (Alia Shawkat), and writer Bob Carroll (Jack Lacy), they act bothered, especially after Desi announces Lucy will have the baby on TV. This causes tension with castmates William Frawley (J.K. Simmons) and Vivian Vance (Nina Arianda) as Lucy clashes with director Donald Glass (Christopher Denham) over the direction of an episode. As the temperature rises, Lucy also makes a startling discovery about Desi in the gossip columns.
This movie is pure fan fiction. Aaron Sorkin likes to do this. We saw him rewrite Bill Clinton with The West Wing, the idiots known as the Chicago Seven got a glamorous portrayal, and the media gets a pass on their malpractice in Newsroom. Now he does the same thing to Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball, the geniuses behind one of the greatest American sitcoms to ever go on television.
For one thing, he totally miscasts almost… everyone. Don’t get me wrong. I adore most of the cast, but they were wrong for these roles. Bardem has trouble matching Desi Arnaz’s natural charisma, making it seem more like a poor imitation. Arianda attempts to make Vance seem younger than she actually was and as such, I did not even realize that is who she is portraying until someone said her name. Lacy made Carroll seem like a total loser when in real life, he was a sharp comedic writer. Shawkat portrays Pugh as a total jerk and had I been in charge, she would have been fired for the behavior she gets away with in the film.
The most egregious rewrites were to Lucille Ball. Her comedic timing and charm were only for the camera. In Sorkin’s imagination, she was a conniving, jealous, bitter, and condescending woman. Kidman was simply unfamiliar or poorly directed and it showed. While it is true that Lucy was a shrewd and smart career woman, I felt this film exaggerated her flaws while also trying to make her seem like a victim. The tonal difference from scene to scene was downright jarring. Kidman was just not right for this role as someone who knows the comedy scene would have been better suited.
Sorkin also tries to sexualize Lucille Ball in not one, but several scenes. I do not need to know his bizarre fantasies, but they were on full display in this story. It came off as incredibly creepy, but I get it, this is Hollywood.
It was not just the casting errors that plagued the movie, it was the constant shift in direction. The movie shows what happened in 1952, while also showing flashbacks to Ball’s pre-TV days, and then jumping to the future where we are treated to dull narration from older actors who play the cast in the “future.” Those future scenes could have been cut altogether. Sorkin obviously thinks his audience is stupid because they were there to explain everything to us viewers. It was both unnecessary and insulting.
Another reason I refer to it as “fan fiction” is because it gets a lot of facts wrong. The movie ages up Lucy to make her seem older, gets the timing on the gossip columns about Desi wrong, picks on a director who did not even work on the show at the time, and even gets anachronisms about the era wrong. This plot was presented as Sorkin’s own narrative, not actual facts. Look, I get it. Hollywood memoirs and biopics dramatize things so they can fit into the runtime of the film, but these changes seemed more like intentional misinformation than dramatization. All of the fancy sets, cinematography, musical scores, and talent were wasted.
The one bright spot in the film is J.K. Simmons as William Frawley, who played cantankerous Fred. He was the only actor who truly seemed to be familiar with his character and brought out his essence. He saved the movie from just being awful with his talent.
Bottom line, Being The Ricardos is what Aaron Sorkin wanted Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball to be. It was his story, not theirs, and it showed.
PARENTAL CONCERNS: Strong foul language, Minor Violence, Brief sexual content
FAVORITE QUOTE: No, it was veta vita vegamin.
Check out the trailer below:
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