being the ricardos
director: aaron sorkin (molly's game, the trial of the Chicago 7)
starring: nicole kidman, javier bardem, j.k. simmons, and tony hale
REVIEWER: lyall carter
Being the Ricardos follows Lucy and Desi as they face a crisis that could end their careers and another that could end their marriage.
Whenever there’s a film or TV show that is based on and explores the golden era of Hollywood in the 50’s and 60’s I’m immediately hooked. I’m intrigued by the production process which is inventive and rudimentary compared to today’s standards and the seemingly wholesome glamour of it all. But Being the Ricardos is more than a paint-by-numbers kinda biopic. You’d expect nothing less from the sublime Aaron Sorkin. While Being the Ricardos is an intriguing biopic it’s so much more than that with Sorkin using the story of Ball and Arnaz to explore the industry, culture, and politics of the day at a transformative time in history.
Lucille Ball (Kidman) and Desi Arnaz (Bardem) are threatened by shocking personal accusations, a political smear, and cultural taboos. Being the Ricardos is a revealing glimpse of the couple’s complex romantic and professional relationship, the film takes audiences into the writers’ room, onto the soundstage, and behind closed doors with Ball and Arnaz during one critical production week of their ground-breaking sitcom “I Love Lucy.”
Like many modern biopics, instead of trying to stuff the entirety of the subject's life into the running time of a feature film, Being the Ricardos focuses on a particular event in their lives. For Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, the real-life couple behind the smash TV hit I Love Lucy, the film focuses on the week when Ball was accused of being a communist at the height of the McCarthy era.
One of the beauties of the narrative of Being the Ricardos is that you don’t have to love I Love Lucy or have any prior background knowledge of Senator McCarthy’s communist witch hunt of the 1950s. Sorkin aptly gives enough detail of the high stakes at play because of the societal situation without overwhelming the viewer with unnecessary information.
And within that Sorkin explores through the lives of Ball and Arnaz themes of political freedom, the damage that political witch hunts can inflict, and the poisonous aspects of the entertainment industry. All themes are particularly pertinent and timely sixty years on from the events of this story. In this Sorkin adds a depth of detail to the story that you not only can sink your teeth into but that makes for incredibly gripping viewing. In the hands of a lesser writer-director, this would have been just another run-of-the-mill biopic.
Nicole Kidman and Javier Bardem are particularly superb in the title roles, boosted by an understated J.K. Simmons and a wonderful supporting cast.
While Being the Ricardos is an intriguing biopic it’s so much more than that with Sorkin using the story of Ball and Arnaz to explore the industry, culture, and politics of the day at a transformative time in history.