Who hasn’t experienced I Love Lucy at least once in their lives? Growing up with my grandparents, TV Land was a popular TV station that was on all the time. Watching classic television was a big part of my development years. Sitcoms were the way of things and experiencing going into the home of a new family in each show. There was one sitcom that ruled the roost. You guessed it…I Love Lucy. Lucy and Ricky Ricardo were the perfect couple and they sparkled on screen together. But what was really going on behind the scenes of this legendary show? That is a story that Aaron Sorkin wanted to tell.
How does Being the Ricardos fair under the pen and camera of Sorkin? This script is quite the Sorkin script. Everyone gabs at a mile per minute and gets their fun zingers. This had to be a blast for any of the cast to throw around this dialogue. But it is not all fun and games. There are a few scenes that had quite the emotional impact as well as taking on serious issues. Over the course of the film, you see Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz fall for each other, battle with each other, make-up lustfully, and go to battle together against anyone who wants their will pressed upon the show. Their marriage was quite shaky, and Ball wanted so much more out of her life. There are tragic moments like her “serious” acting career dying at RKO. You also see deeply into the process that Ball used to process her issues. Audiences even see Desi’s darker edge and how he powered his way through everything and everyone. Arguments with directors, late night rehearsals, and writers’ room battles fill up this narrative with great material.
But how does Sorkin avoid your standard tropes of biopics? For the most part, this film does feel like a bit of your run-of-the-mill biopic. But there is some interesting flair along the way. The non-linear storytelling can get muddled at times especially since it is Nicole Kidman and Javier Bardem playing Lucille and Desi the whole film (despite not exactly looking like some young lovers). Then there is the framed narrative of the writers (at an advanced age) going back and telling much of the story. Was this an effect? It felt more of an artistic choice than one that truly fleshed out the narrative or added dimensions to it. The direction of the film has quite a bit of energy, helping this at times muddled narrative fly by. I can never say I was bored watching this film. Even when the story felt through the motions or scenes felt like your standard biopic affair, that Sorkin dialogue came in swinging.
But this cannot all be the Sorkin show, right? It certainly was not. Kidman gives a fantastic performance. She does do her bits of Lucy impersonations (it feels artificial because that character was a caricature) but she delivers so much depth when it comes to Ball. A serious presence behind the scenes, Kidman gives Ball so much strength as she battles for control of her own life despite being shot down at every turn. Kidman will certainly be getting awards attention for this one. Bardem was an interesting choice. His deep booming voice was an adjustment, but he embodied the energy of Desi. He even was a bit frightening at times when he laid down his authority on people. One telegraph says it all in the film (you will know it when you hear it). The supporting cast is a blast with Nina Arianda, Alia Shawkat, Jake Lacy, and Tony Hale. But here is a special shoutout for the grump on set with surprising depth in the form of J.K. Simmons. A pitch perfect supporting turn in this sharp Sorkin flick.
Does Sorkin have another awards darling on his hands? I might not have loved this as much as many, but there is plenty to love about it. The acting and writing are sharp and quick witted. The film captures the setting and time so perfectly. This was a fun ride that engulfs the audience in nostalgia but with meaningful pathos as well. Being the Ricardos is another win in the books for blossoming director Sorkin.