Coming to theatres and then to Prime Video from writer/director Aaron Sorkin and Amazon Studios tells the story of BEING THE RICARDOS.
In 1952, Lucille Ball (Nicole Kidman) and Desi Arnaz (Javier Bardem) are televisions power couple of television and are very married. Going into a critical week, Lucy is dealing with stories of Desi’s infidelity, script problems and being called a communist all while preparing for the Friday night performance of I Love Lucy. Desi makes it clear to everyone that he is going to take care of it all.
On the set, the writers Madelyn Pugh (Alia Shawkat) and Bob Carroll Jr. (Jake Lacy) are arguing changes with Jess Oppenheimer (Tony Hale) tries to keep the peace at a table read. Not helping is the William Frawley (J.K. Simmons) who plays Fred and Vivian Vance (Nina Arianda) who plays Ethel being just as sarcastic with each other off stage as well as on.
Tensions rise when Lucy tries to make changes and hits a wall with Oppenheimer. Believing she is right; it is Frawley who tries to guide her into getting the changes she wants. Desi is still jumping through hoops proving that he has more control of the show than the network would like.
As the Ricardos and the staff try and handle each disaster, they also tell the story of a young Lucille Ball who sees the young Cuban singer Desi Arnaz and how their affair began. As both of them try to find their way into Hollywood, their life really takes off when I Love Lucy hits television.
All of this leads to Lucy trying to keep her family together, Desi dealing with the CBS network and Phillip Morris agency. The television family comes together to fight it all, but some things can not be re-written into the script.
Kidman as Lucille Ball is changed a bit with the help of prosthetics and makeup and gives us the best Ball we could have imagined. The actress invites us into Ball’s world behind the camera of a tough woman who knew what needed to be done but had to fight for every inch to move forward. Knowing that there were murmurs of Kidman playing the iconic Lucille Ball, those who spoke out (and you know who you are) can now just pipe down. Kidman gave it everything and everything pays off.
Bardem as Desi Arnaz gave us the Cuban bandleaders life prior to Hollywood and although they do not go into detail, what is shared is sad but at the same time gave Arnaz motivation to succeed. Bardem wraps himself in the role with singing and drum playing and makes it look effortless. He gives Desi’s view of the relationship with Lucille Ball as quick, passionate, loaded with transgressions, successful and protective – but sometimes it is not enough. Well done Bardem!
Simmons as Frawley is so cool, I cannot even stand it. He gives Frawley the quick wit, grumpy sarcasm yet keenly aware of what is going on and supports in surprising ways. I have always been a firm believer that the person who seems less interested in the room is taking in everything in the room. Simmons does all of this while wearing old man chest high well-creased pants. I so enjoyed his performance.
Arianda as Vance is like Lucille Ball, does not take any garbage and does not hold back her emotions. There comes a moment in the script where her looks are called into question and Arianda rolls up her sleeves and gives Vance a voice. I appreciated that so much knowing that even back in the 50’s, women like Vance who were struggling with who she wanted to be against who the public saw her as.
Shawkat as Pugh is a woman script writer in a man’s world with the same sharp wit at the women around her, sometimes too sharp. Lacy as Bob is Pugh’s verbal sparing partner and script writer who stands back at times and lets the chips fall where they may. Hale as Oppenheimer is someone who not only created a show but stays with it through everything, even when those he protects the most sometimes tests his patience.
Other cast includes John Ruben as elder Oppenheimer, Linda Lavin as elder Madelyn Pugh, Ronny Cox as elder Bob Carroll, Dana Lyn Baron as Miss Rosen, Daniel Sachoff as David Levy, Nelson Franklin as Joe Strickland, Jeff Holman as Roger Otter, Baise Buzan as Mary Pat, Christopher Denham as Donald Glass, Max Silvestri as David Hart, and Clark Gregg as Howards Wenke.
Amazon Prime offers television shows and original content included in its Amazon Prime subscription. Original programs such as CARNIVAL ROW, THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE, and THE MARVELOUS MRS. MAISEL are hit shows. Coming soon is the next series with GOLIATH starring Billy Bob Thornton and it promises to another successful and intense series.
BEING THE RICARDOS is funny, sad, interesting, intriguing, surprising and gave me several ‘wow’ moments. This is the 1950’s and the world may have seemed like a different time but interestingly enough, not so different at the same time in the ways of values and barriers. That was the very first thing I noticed but then, the story took me over (not to negate the above).
Kidman and Bardem are absolutely fantastic together and Lucy and Desi. I was not looking to see if Kidman could be Lucille Ball because all I saw was Lucille Ball and the same applies to Bardem. I watched these two characters weave in and out of a week of mayhem and chaos. Of course, although the events may be real, the only thing that did not happen was it all happened in a week. That’s Sorkin doing what Sorkin’s writing does.
From pregnancy to infidelity to communism to friendship, BEING THE RICARDOS tackles each of these because they had an impact on the Arnaz family and marriage. The reverberations were felt throughout their friendships, the studio and the production of a series that changed American television.
The cinematography and costumes put a seal on the entire project giving is a look of authenticity and kept me totally involved. From Lucy’s big eyes and red lipstick to Desi’s perfect hair and stunning suits, the film is so darn inviting and I fell hook, line and red headed sinker.
In the end – television would never be the same!