Being the Ricardos

 (3,635)
6.52 h 12 min2021X-RayHDRUHDR
During one production week of “I Love Lucy” — from Monday table read through Friday audience taping — Lucille Ball (Nicole Kidman) and Desi Arnaz (Javier Bardem) face a series of personal and professional crises that threaten their show, their careers and their marriage, in writer-director Aaron Sorkin’s behind-the-scenes drama.
Directors
Aaron Sorkin
Starring
Nicole KidmanJavier BardemJ.K. Simmons
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DramaComedy
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Supporting actors
Nina AriandaAlia ShawkatTony Hale
Producers
Todd BlackJason BlumenthalSteve Tisch
Studio
Amazon Studios
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R (Restricted)
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Nuditysmokingalcohol usesexual contentfoul language
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3.1 out of 5 stars

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Dawn Lee WakefieldReviewed in the United States on December 21, 2021
5.0 out of 5 stars
Aaron Sorkin’s “Being the Ricardos” Perfect Insight Into Lucy and Desi’s World
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It’s always easy to be loved by lightning in a bottle; from within its confines, it reaches out, holds you, captivates you, becomes obsessed with you, and never lets you go. It has captured you. It is harder to love lightning in a bottle because it shines so brightly it blinds you; it projects warmth that you fear will one day leave you. It owns you; you don’t own it. Individually you are important; together you are magic.

This film from Aaron Sorkin and Amazon Studios is the story of a week in the life of Desi Arnaz and his wife Lucille Ball—a film of passion, turmoil, love from above the elemental plane of earth and sorrow that is resolute and inconsolable.

Having waited for two months after hearing of the December 21st debut of Aaron Sorkin’s latest work of genius truly gave me something to look forward to. At one minute past midnight on December 21, I opened Amazon’s website to check if it was available.

Christmas came early this year, because all I had to do was click, and instantly I was transported back to my 1950s childhood. The opening scene introduces Walter Winchell’s breaking news that Lucy (referred to only as “the redhead” had been a member of the Communist Party. The second scene introduces the full cast and crew of “I Love Lucy,” and there’s brilliant dialogue that will delight TV trivia fanatics who definitely know, even if they hadn’t known before, who Rusty Hamer was.

Next, you see all the CBS executives and too many representatives of the show’s sponsor, Philip Morris in Desi’s office at Desilu Productions. Finally, we’re back on set for Day 1’s Table Read. Background music begins and triggers the process by which the show’s director, producer, and two writers along with the stage director interact. And for the next two hours, you will lose all track of time because there’s no place but the world of the Ricardos and the Arnazes that matters.

In the first 18 minutes, you’re about to learn the backstory of Desi as singer, movie star, and mesmerizing lady killer. For every pre-movie crank who claimed there was no chance that Javier Bardem would be believable as Desi Arnaz, pay up whomever you bet with because no better actor could portray Desi than Bardem.

Nicole Kidman’s portrayal of Lucy goes straight to the heart. Her presentation of the range of emotions that Lucy experiences in a week’s time is the height and depth of real-life angst and satisfaction from delivering what she knows she is capable of bringing. Not once during the movie did it occur to me that I wasn’t watching the “real” Lucy.

Note: to those who think this movie reflects the TV show, there are multiple scenes that would never have made it past the CBS censors in olden days, but don’t let that be a reason not to watch.

J. K. Simmons has proved over and over again what a brilliant actor he is. He is so good that he managed to reveal the true heart and spirit of Bill Frawley, who virtually every fan of the show considers to be the lesser light and grumpy old man. In fact, Simmons’ Frawley is brilliant, insightful, compassionate, and actually funny.

So far that’s three Academy Award winners so who do we get for Vivian Vance? A Tony Award winner, Nina Arianda. This may be the first you’ve heard of her but not seen. You After numerous successful Broadway plays, Arianda brings accolades from movies and television as well. Her portrayal of Vivian is superb and explores the story thread that Lucy always wanted Viv to be more like the average American housewife than movie star, especially in a contract that specified her minimum weight.

As seen multiple times, Lucy’s skill in envisioning full comedy scenes from one line pitched by a writer to full scene is part of the brilliance of the show: “Lucy stomps the grapes” was written on an index card on the corkboard; how it “became” the “stomping the grapes” episode happened in Lucy’s mind.

Three writers and one dreamer added up to magic. Lucy was a stickler for detail in set design, show flow, use of scenery, lines that didn’t work, and the “moving parts of physical comedy.” As you progress in the film, you won’t “hear” Nicole; you hear the range and timber of Australian Nicole as the real Lucy.

Desi Arnaz received the credit he was due and the respect as a businessman he so greatly deserved. Sorkin made sure to show the behind-the-scenes role that Desi played as he functioned literally and substantially as Desilu studios’ President. He had no trouble leading (wait until you see how he handled “the Red Scare.” No hints, no spoilers.

The dialogue flows: (Lucy to Bill Frawley) “Let me tell you something about Desi. He runs this show, every creative decision goes through him. Every business decision, the network, Philip Morris, and if that wasn’t enough, he is camera ready on Monday. Takes me five days to get a laugh. He’s killing at the Table Read. And believe me, that man is nobody’s second banana.” (Bill to Lucy) “And how many people know that? That Desi runs the show?”

Therein is the key to the major struggle in the Arnaz family at home. Home is a word that Lucy used often, wistfully, and it meant to her that it was a sanctuary for her and her family. For Desi, home was “the boat,” also their home together, as well as the stage at Ciro’s and everywhere he toured.

Once again, Javier Bardem kills as Ricky in his prime as a bandleader and performer. Whether or not Javier ever played the congas before this movie, thanks to coaching by the iconic Walfredo Reyes, Jr. (Chicago, Santana, Traffic), his playing of “Babalu” was perfect, down the detail of loosening his bow tie during the “Ole, Ole, Ole, Ole” call and answer with the band. Later on, his version of “Cuban Pete” is another showstopper.

One unique aspect of the film is Sorkin’s inside look at the relationship between Jess Oppenheimer (writer and producer), Madelyn Pugh Davis (who just died this past April at age 90) and Bob Carroll, Jr., the three brains that wrote the dialogue that America memorized each week. Lucy and Desi brought life to the words, but a surprise reveal was the snarkiness and almost ridicule bordering on contempt that the brilliant writers showed Lucy…to the point of Desi having to have serious discussions with them about how disrespectful they were to her.

It was a bonus to see Linda Lavin portraying Madelyn Pugh Davis. Trivia fans will love that she was also known as Madelyn Martin from 1955–1960, as she was married to producer Quinn Martin, producer of “The FBI,” “Barnaby Jones,” and “The Fugitive, among at least 12 weekly shows he produced.

Perhaps their slight jealousy was understandable as your face, name, and existence are known only to faithful credit watchers, and it’s beyond real to have anyone give the writers a standing ovation, even if they win an Emmy or an Oscar. And yet, great dialogue in the hands of the wrong actors, simply is not funny, no matter what. All the stars in the sky must line up properly for the magic to happen. Here, magic was built on respect.

Respect was everything to Desi, not as much for himself, but for his wife and her talent. Sorkin’s dialogue captures that point and brings it home multiple times. That one tenet of faith that, at least professionally, was made clear was the unquestioned respect Lucy and Desi had for another and that’s where the love began. Offstage, it was easy to see where the love faded.

Lucy (with or without husband Gary Morton’s consent) stayed dear friends with Desi and his wife Edith. The two wives were very close and the blended families were often at Lucy’s home, so that everyone could visit with Lucie, Desi, Jr., and the grandchildren. Everyone had access to unconditional love in real life.

And yet, the acting and producing was also their real life. Lucy’s gift was comedy, not the Rita Hayworth and Judy Holiday stars that shone brightly on the dramatic screen. She resigned herself to that because she had a chance, one she demanded from CBS, to work with her real-life husband on a quality program that America fell in love with and shared with the rest of the world. The show was groundbreaking in so many ways, yet it remains fresh each time you see an episode today, even if it is the 34th time you’ve seen “Vitameatavegimen.”

When they worked together, they built an empire. It was Desi’s idea for the three cameras to shoot scenes more completely and the live audience would have an unobstructed view of the action. Occasionally Lucy’s dialogue would include stage directions and only then were you reminded that this was not real life you were watching.

Desilu Productions also produced “Star Trek,” whose shows remain almost as iconic today as “I Love Lucy,” and their reach is worldwide as well. Their “Mission Impossible” was the precursor to virtually every governmental secret agency show that would be developed for the next 60 years. For just three of their productions, that’s hundreds of millions of viewers amassed.

In its debut, “Being the Ricardos” is available on Amazon Prime today in the United States, Germany, Latin America, Paris, Poland, Portugal, Spain, and Italy. It’s a free film to Amazon Prime members, but I would have willingly paid $20 to watch it tonight. The Arnaz children, Lucie Arnaz and Desi Arnaz, Jr., are two of the Executive Producers of this film. Along with other key producers, we had “one more chance” to be with a favorite couple from our Baby Boomer childhood. Aaron Sorkin is once again synonymous with brilliance in show flow, dialogue, and comedy.

In 2017 Amazon Studios won its first three Oscars for their film “Moonlight.” Someone better make room at headquarters, because this film is bound to bring home trophies. Thanks for an early Christmas, Aaron, Amazon, and the Arnaz family.
42 people found this helpful
J. TravisReviewed in the United States on December 22, 2021
5.0 out of 5 stars
Nicole Kidman is Sublime!
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I grew up watching I Love Lucy on Nick at Nite, and since then bought all the DVDs of the entire series- and like many of us, have memorized every body movement- every facial gesture and every audible cry Lucy Ricardo ever did. Being the Ricardos is not about Lucy Ricardo. It's about Lucille Ball. Two very different women.

Nicole Kidman and Javier Bardem (Desi Arnaz) both have strong chemistry together and although they may not look exactly like their characters, they embody their spirits. I also loved JK Simmons as William Frawley and Nina Arianda as Vivian Vance.

Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network, Trial of Chicago 7) directs with his usual brisk and quick timing, and it works. Ball was not easy to work with, and for good reason---- she had been in show business 20 years prior to I Love Lucy, and almost made it in Hollywood as an A lister- almost. She never quite got there, and there is a heartbreaking scene where she's fired from RKO after doing her best work in a movie called The Big Street (with Henry Fonda; Rita Hayworth had to drop out, hence Ball got the shot). But because she was almost 40, the studio heads "don't really know what to do with you."

From there, Ball went into radio doing the comic works of My Favorite Husband, about a ditsy wife who spends too much money on her upper middle class husband's salary. When CBS approached Ball to do a TV version, she insisted instead that they have Desi as her husband, and after grumbling about a Cuban being in an All American sitcom, history was made.

Sorkin does exactly what he did with Steve Jobs--- shows us a week in the writing room as the writers and producers have to deal with Ball's strict and viscous temperament about how scenes should be played, and how props are used. The movie centers around when Lucille Ball was accused of being a communist. Historically inaccurate in terms of what episode they were working on ("Fred and Ethel Fight") because that show was from season 1. Ball wasn't accused of being a communist until the start of season 3, and the episode was "The Girls Go into Business." I am guess Sorkin picked the former because it involved more physical comedy, and the very famous opening line "Lucy, I'm Home!"- which Desi would go on saying for the next six seasons.

Back to the actors ---there is true fire in the performances. Kidman doesn't miss a beat. She doesn't always look the part, but boy does she nail the emotion and physical embodiment of Lucy, who like Kidman, was tall and big with hand gestures. Kidman also does a great job immolating Ball's voice, famously raspy, deep and evident of cigarette smoking.

Most of the film has us looking behind the scenes, so Nicole's hair is down and we don't quite see the Lucy face we're used too- until we are treated to beautiful reenactments of the black and white prints redone, and Nicole's hair properly up in the bun that made Lucy Ricardo a hit. Towards the end of the movie, we finally see her looking just like Lucy. She's no Debra Messing, but unlike the Will & Grace star- Kidman is able to dive deep into the mental state of Ball, which has never been shown as strongly before.

Javier Bardem is okay as Desi, but I felt he was a bit too old for the role. Arnaz was only 34 when I Love Lucy began, six years younger then his wife. I still feel Bardem was exceptional in some of his heavy hitting monologues (which Sorkin is known to give all his actors). JK Simmons really nails William Frawley. Of the four cast members, Simmons captures the humor the best. Nina Arianda has the physical part of Vivian Vance (Ethel Mertz) and some of the sadness that went with it---- Vance was always forced to be 10 lbs overweight, something that is filmed quite well here in a conversation between her and Ball.

The supporting cast is strong too, especially Tony Hale as the producer of I Love Lucy, Jess Oppenheimer.

My only slight issue with the movie is it's somewhat of a downer. Ball isn't very likable which was the case in real life on set. However luckily we see some gentler sides of her towards the end.

The film talks about everything we had heard about the show before, like not being able to use the word "pregnant" on TV, Lucy and Ricky sleeping in separate beds, Frawley's drinking problem, Arnaz's renown infidelity (Which led to their divorce in 1960, a day after the last episode was taped). All of the drama that was going on during the run of the series is some how squeezed into the week in the life we're viewing. And I think that was smart considering the tension it allows us to see, and especially with younger audiences who may not know anything about I Love Lucy- here they can see the racial and political tensions that were happening, often still relevant in today's heavy social media environment.

This is one of Nicole Kidman's best performances and considering how much of a risk it was for her to tackle the project (Cate Blanchett was originally slated), she is exceptional.
6 people found this helpful
J LReviewed in the United States on December 29, 2021
2.0 out of 5 stars
I Have Always Loved Lucy
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I stumbled upon this film because it is one of the films available to me as a Prime member. I did not read any reviews before I screened the film tonight. I did see that viewers did not rate the film very highly, though.

It was not a bad film. I give a lot of credit to all of the cast because I cannot imagine anyone could be all that believable as the real principals represented in this film. The film did offer a reasonable account of the what happened that week, and characters's lines were pretty reasonable to their real life counterparts. There was not a lot of fantasy here based on the numerous Lucille Ball biographies I have read. If the purpose of the film was to give us a idea of what was taking place between Lucy and Desi and the threat to their careers at that time, it did a good job of telling the story.

I think what probably bothers most people is that the actors were not extremely believable in those parts. Why? Because we all know the story so well. We all have loved I Love Lucy and the cast for so many decades, no one could possibly portray them that well in a film about them. I think we need to give the actors a fair break here and admit that they did their best, the best that possibly anyone could have done aside from perhaps the wonderful Fran Drescher as Lucy. Drescher is so like Lucy that she could have been Lucy's daughter. She has Lucy's expression, timing, and gift for physical comedy. Having said that, though, I think the actors here did the very best they could do.

Setting aside the question as to whether or not these actors made us believe they were really their namesakes, the other thing I would comment upon is the sequence. The film was not presented in a linear fashion. The story jumped back and forth in time of the story as it happened to the real life people involved, and it also jumped back and forth with one of the writers and others from behind the scenes who answer an interviewer's questions about what happened that week and what things were like between Lucy and Desi during that time period. We never hear the questions asked, but we can tell what are the questions by the way the interviewees answer the questions. I did not dislike the interviewer/interviewee part, but perhaps the jumping back and forth in time in the story line with the principals was less effective than it was envisioned as being. That was unfortunate, but not every artistic attempt becomes a masterpiece, and I for one will not hold that against anyone.

One other thing I would like to say is that the two actresses played Madelyn Pugh were great. It was lovely to see a very believable Linda Lavin as the older Pugh answering questions from the interviewer, and the younger actress who played Pugh whilst she was co-writing the programme. Both were excellent as Pugh. In fact, the cast members who played the writers, producers, staff, etc., all had very good comedic timing and were amusing if not laugh out loud funny.

I think we all wanted to see Nicole Kidman being hilarious as Lucy, but from everything I have ever read about our beloved Lucy, she was in fact not a very funny person off stage. She had had a truly difficult life, and whilst she brought Lucy Ricardo to life quite brilliantly, Lucille Ball herself was not like Lucy at all. Lucille was a more serious person who led a totally different life from Lucy Ricardo. Lucy was a character. Lucille was the real person who, along with the writers and the other other people behind the scenes, brought Lucy to life and left us a legacy that I think will live forever. I read once read that I Love Lucy is never off the air at any time of day and any day of the year. It is always playing somewhere in the world 24/7. I think that is the greatest tribute to Lucille, Desi, Bill, Vivian, and everyone else involved with the show. Kidman gave us Lucille Ball Arnez, which was her brief, whilst most of us wanted to see Lucy Ricardo.

Was this a terrific film I would want to watch again one day? Probably not. Was it a reasonable representation of the real people and what they experienced? Yes, I believe that it was so. If anyone is interested in that story, then the film is worth the time to screen it. Just remember it is not Lucy and Ricky and Fred and Ethel that are the subject of the story. The story is about the real life human beings who produced I Love Lucy. The film did tell the story it set out to tell, and I give it credit for that. The actors did their very best to play one of a kind television legends, the real people who were behind the characters. It was no easy task.

All in all it was not a bad film. It was a very challenging one for the people who came decades later to tell us the story, though. So, I say thank you to all of them, and if you want to see a dramatisation of what happened with the real people at that time in history, then watch this film because there is no other out there. Just do not expect to see another film of the quality of a Casablanca or a Raiders or an On Golden Pond or Bringing Up Baby, etc., because it is not that level of film. Accept it for what it is, and I think you will enjoy it well enough if like me, you also love Lucy and miss her. It has always saddened me that Lucy made me and the world laugh more than anyone else I can recall in the first probably 20-25 years of my life, and that she left us a legacy so rich, so wonderful that we can never thank her enough, but her real life, and her real marriage to Desi Arnez was not as joyous and happy as Lucy Ricardo's. I am an old lady now, and I still love Lucy, very much indeed. I am happy others love her enough to do this film, too.
7 people found this helpful
DisneyDenizenReviewed in the United States on December 23, 2021
4.0 out of 5 stars
JAVIER BARDEM WAS A POOR CASTING CHOICE
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By the time I started watching TV, I Love Lucy was in reruns. And it's been in reruns ever since. I've seen many episodes, although I can't quite see the appeal. Some episodes are obviously fantastic, but overall it just didn't grab me the way so many other sitcoms have.

That said, I was still interested in the relationship between Desi and Lucy. Despite what she says in this film, he always struck me as the second banana, a straight man to her comedic talents but one whose male ego had to be constant assuaged. So I was interested in this behind-the-scenes movie.

This movie alternates between:

(1) A week in the life - a week during which Lucy is accused of being a communist, announces television's first pregnancy, and of course accuses Desi of cheating on her.

(2) Modern day interviews with some of the people involved with I Love Lucy back in the day.

(3) Flashbacks during which we see how Desi and Lucy meet and their relationship develops.

The flashbacks were by far the most interesting part, and I would have liked to see more of those. The interviews I could have done without. And the week in the life was also fairly good.

Nicole Kidman did a good job as Lucy, and as the movie progressed, she started to look more and more like Lucille Ball. But Javier Bardem, fine actor that he is, was just not a fit for this role. Every time he was on screen, I found myself picturing how Desi Arnaz would have looked doing and saying whatever it was that Bardem was doing. He is simply not a good fit physically; in no universe will he ever look like Desi Arnaz, and that diminished my enjoyment of this otherwise interesting movie.

There's also a little too much talking down to Lucy in this movie. "Let me take you home, Lucy," seems to be a common refrain. Of course, she never ever lets them. And yet, in the end, it is Desi who solves her biggest problems - and of course creates one (and tries to gaslight her).
One person found this helpful
TurfseerReviewed in the United States on December 24, 2021
3.0 out of 5 stars
Chronicle of iconic TV stars proves more educational than emotionally satisfying
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Warning: Spoilers

As writer and director Being the Ricardos, Alan Sorkin received quite a bit of criticism for his casting choices in the recently released biopic of the iconic TV and real-life couple Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. Yes Nicole Kidman who plays Lucy and Javier Barden cast as Desi, both are a bit too old for the parts.

Kidman manages to look a lot like Lucy Ricardo the TV character but not so much as Lucille Ball. She gets the voice down pretty well but still filmgoers were left unsatisfied.

Perhaps it's because they were expecting more comedy due to their fond remembrance of the wacky character Lucille Ball was so well known for. But as Ball's daughter Lucie Arnaz (an executive producer of the show along with brother Desi Arnaz Jr.) has always pointed out, her mother was the opposite of the character she played on television.

Barden lacks the handsome boyish looks of the real-life Desi but what do these viewer critics expect? Sure they could have found some unknown actors who really looked and sounded the parts, but you don't get a network like Amazon interested in such a project without hiring stars that will draw in an audience effortlessly (as they have done here).

Kidman and Barden were probably the best they could do and while their characterizations are not perfect, these are reasonable performances and the thespians here hold their own!

Sorkin's dialogue is smart and not without some wit. He condensed the timeline into a five day period in which the TV episodes are out of chronological order along with some of the historical narrative. I wasn't bothered by the fact that the major plotline about Ball being called to answer allegations that she was a Communist was sandwiched in with the controversy about her pregnancy in which network executives fretted about this issue until finally greenlighting Ball's demand to incorporate her real-life situation as a major story arc.

Actually those two events happened a year apart. Other scenes in which Sorkin used some dramatic license to enhance the drama I also didn't find too jarring. One such example was the fictional phone call from J. Edgar Hoover.

Lucie Arnaz generally applauded Sorkin's portrayal of her parents. However she felt there might have been too much fiddling with the timeline that negatively impacted the overall story. One such example of an event that proved blatantly untrue was the suggestion that Lucille Ball's contract at RKO was dropped because she was now reaching middle age (at the ripe old age of 39).

This was after Lucille Ball's critical success in the film The Big Street-she actually starred in this picture in 1942 when she was only 31 years old.

The real-life story of Lucy and Desi is really not inherently dramatic. But Sorkin manages to keep us interested by focusing on the rehearsal process of the actual show. Recreations of the various episodes are wisely kept to a minimum. In addition to the Communist accusation controversy, Ball and Arnaz's troubled marriage is explored in a less heavy-handed way than expected.

I like how Desi is shown continually lying to his wife about his many infidelities-finally she produces the evidence confirming that he is a serial philanderer. Amazingly he tells her that it's only a bunch of "call girls" he's been hanging out with-as though that would absolve him of his long-term inappropriate behavior.

We also find out about the friction between the I Love Lucy co-stars, William Frawley and Vivian Vance, played by J. K. Simmons and Nina Arianda. They are both fine in the roles and their relationship with Lucille Ball is also expertly chronicled by Sorkin.

At its core, Being the Ricardos is a tribute to a woman who was a pioneer in the television industry-breaking boundaries in terms of content and eventually excelling in the area of business acumen. Sometimes Sorkin goes a little too far focusing on the positive attributes of the iconic star whom he lionizes. There are perhaps a few too many scenes regurgitating the point that most of the impetus for the I Love Lucy success rested squarely on Lucille Ball's very creative ground-breaking shoulders.

One of the reasons I'm not able to give Being the Ricardos a higher rating is that I have never been crazy about Lucille Ball's brand of slapstick humor. At best her humor is occasionally amusing but certainly not very sophisticated. Of the two, I find Desi Arnaz to be the much more interesting character. There is something about the real-life persona of Lucille Ball that is not entirely likable.

Nonetheless despite my lack of enthusiasm for the biography of such an iconic entertainer, the real story here is the entertainment industry itself. Sorkin covers all bases here including the personalities of the writers of the show. All in all Being the Ricardos proves more educational than a work of art that is emotionally satisfying. But learning something new is never something to sneeze at when attending the movies.
Amazon CustomerReviewed in the United States on December 24, 2021
1.0 out of 5 stars
Being the Ricardos: humorless and dull (unlike the late beloved comedic actress and popular show)
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While I generally love Nicole Kidman in anything she does, this is a huge exception. This movie actually manages to take the humor out of "I Love Lucy" by getting too involved in the details; making the show and the jokes look like a chore to film when Lucille Ball always seemed to be effortlessly funny in the role of Lucy Ricardo. It's as if this movie thinks that we won't take it seriously if we laugh, or LB does, during the running time when quite the opposite is true.
I quit the movie about 45 minutes in because the focus was on McCarthyism in season 2 of the show. (Don't even get me started on how silly it is that this movie wants us to think that the highlight of LB's struggles/career was the Red Scare that effected the production of ILL season 2. Again, what about focusig on her talent, her business savvy, etc)...I honestly was looking forward to watching a movie that explored how Ball headed her own production company or how she went from a 'b-list movie star' to a lead in her own show. While I get that not every star lives an idealistic life, as was the case with Judy Garland and the movie made about her recently "Judy," but even Garland loved singing and is shown as loving it in "Judy." This film, by contrast, actually depicts Lucille Ball coming up with the 'lost earing in a vat of grapes,' skit as a solution to a script-writing problem and LB barely cracks a smile as she proposes this idea to the show's writers, who also do not seem to 'get' her idea. Why is this a problem? Bc for movie-goers like me, we would like to assume (as Ball's amazing acting rightly leads us to conclude) that the show is funny and lively and that it must have been at least some degree of fun for Ball to create and star in (given acting was her career and she had a lot of creative input on the direction of the show). While I get that this movie is perhaps trying to show how arduous the process is behind the camera, if Lucille Balle isn't having any real fun and laughing at her own jokes as she creates them, then why are we watching? In fact, I don't think that the show would have been nearly as good as it was and continues to be if Lucille Ball was not only intuitively creative and 'funny' but enjoying her work as well. That is to say, while comedians can be serious or can use humor to address serious topics, it's not as if they themselves don't have a sense of humor, right? Well in this movie, LB does not seem to have a sense of humor about anything--she seems put upon to be asked for creative insight in season 2 of the show rather than excited, and the depiction of her in the show seems as if it is intentionally forced (by the movie's director/writer) when in reality it looked quite natural. This is simply to say the movie is tone-deaf to what an audience wants from it and what the audience has seen in ILL. In the ILL episode where Lucy is planning to resolve a fight between Ethel and Fred by inviting them to supper, Ricky sneaks up behind Lucy, covers her eyes, and she asks "Who is it?" and they go back and forth with Lucy guessing incorrectly, "Is it Pablo? Juan..." and we the audience know that neither Lucy nor Ricky are being serious; they are flirting with each other affectionately. However, in the movie, Nicole Kidman's LB discusses the scene in the script-reading/writing process, and asks with real seriousness, "Why wouldn't Lucy recognize her husband's voice or see the door open?" This movie actually does this itself or suggests that LB is correcting a mistake that makes LR look silly when the actual scene in the episode is meant to showcase the banter between the Ricardos, not LR's stupidity--in other words, this movie takes the scene too seriously and seems to be misreading it. You would think that a movie about Lucille Ball and the show ILL would not be having their central figure misreading or overanalyzing her own material or material she is involved in bringing to life. This movie, ironically, takes itself too seriously and by doing so, it actually manages to take the humor and fun out of ILL. I'm not saying that Lucille Ball wasn't a serious, hardworking individual who had to deal with prejudice and sexism in 50's Hollywood, but this movie makes the mistake of assuming that LB cannot be funny/cannot see the humor in her own show or the audience will not take her and her struggles seriously (as if the movie is implying that when you see Lucille Ball, you shouldn't associate her with the humor she was known for; obviously for any of us who didn't know, the Red Scare was no joke and LB wasn't really LR). Ironically, just as women like LB weren't usually cast in funny roles or leading funny roles in 50s hollywood bc women had to be beautiful femme fatales, this movie does not allow LB to be creative and funny or lighthearted...When we watch the show, we laugh at/with Lucy Ricardo, and when I started this movie, I was hoping to be able to laugh with Lucille Ball and cry with her when she cried; it never occurred to me that I needed proof Lucille Ball was truly talented at comedy but also a serious, independent woman and this movie does her an injustice by thinking that we couldn't see that for ourselves.
If you are reading this review, I highly recommend that if you want to watch something of actual substance about Lucille Ball's life, relationships and career, you should watch the documentary "Finding Lucy" (2000). Otherwise, an even better use of your time would be to watch the real Lucille Ball in action as Lucy Ricardo and have a good laugh--this may be just my humble opinion, but I think she would have appreciated that.
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Kwyn BridgesReviewed in the United States on December 22, 2021
5.0 out of 5 stars
HAVE FAITH IN THE EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS (THEIR KIDS LUCIE & DESI ARNAZ) & SPARE US YOUR NEGATIVITY!
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After watching this incredibly well-done Film and reading some of the negative comments here are my observations...
1. The Story surrounding the 1 week of blistering publicity that threatened the show was a great play cinematically.

2. The way the writer brings you into who they were before, after, and during "I Love Lucy" was masterfully executed!!
The Cinematography and look of the Film was not only spot on for the period but stunning visually throughout every scene!

3. At 58, I was not born until the show was in syndication, but I was a huge Fan of the show, Lucy, and her later successful show in the 70's. I was literally floored by the flow of the film, the acting, attention to detail, and the fact that their kids Lucie Arnaz & Desi Arnaz Jr. were overseeing the film's content as Executive Producers. (This is my main reason for countering any haters out there that question the accuracy of the content and the beauty of the main focus of the humanistic real love story behind two private people that were thrusted into 60 million living rooms each week).

4. Watching this beautiful film please trust the fact that Lucy & Desi's kids have protected the integrity of their parent's legacies for decades and waited to make the right film about their parent's story and this film is it!

5. As for the Actors and the supporting cast? They ALL nail the essence of each character and the ensemble is nothing less than sensational! Nicole Kidman's voice, visual portrayal, demeanor, and mannerisms were incredibly accurate, and she channels the very witty, commanding, demanding, and evasive soft side of Lucille Ball to perfection. Javier Bardem's portrayal of Desi is fabulous, and it was very interesting to me how much he sold me and made me a believer as Desi when I didn't expect him to in the beginning. (Simply because his rough exterior won him an Acadamy Award for playing an assassin in "No Country for Old Men"). Hence the reason they casted him. He's an incredible Actor! J. K. Simmons is amazing in anything he does and was the perfect choice as the grouchy William Frawley. Nina Arianda also was a stunning as Vivian Vance and her banter featuring the torrid relationship with Bill Frawley was also a great addition to the film. The supporting team (Ronny Cox, Lina Lavin, Alia Shawkat, Robert Pine, Clark Gregg, and many other great actors were all well-chosen and great contributions to the cast and portrayals of the then prude Executive Teams of overly safe television of the day...

6. I was troubled by some of the negative reviews that were very attacking in nature (namely many of the 1-star to 3-star reviews) that are for some reason taking pot shots at the actors and writers as keyboard warriors not taking the time to realize this was a passion project that involved Lucy and Desi's kids who are both industry veterans as Executive Producers.

Taking production liberties to condense years of story content and history into a film is a daunting task to begin with. However, as a fan of the shows and their careers, I believe that it was done extraordinarily well and the historic era preservation and translation to screen was visually stunning.

The look into the real love affair, and the true personalities behind their goody two shoes television image was impeccably captured. Maybe that's what is upsetting some of the naysayers.

If the fact that Lucy and Ricky were real people, with real problems, and surrounded by controversy. bothers you? Then just watch the make-believe TV series and live to judge another day because by looking at your disrespectful comments it's in your DNA and you will.

This Film takes you into their real-life struggles as self-made Executives, and lets you see the interior battles of having to be funny with precision in every episode they produced. The Film also shows you that they were truly human beings and a real Husband & Wife, with real children, real challenges, that dealt with the chaotic moments of stardom while balancing network and sponsor opinions and censorship that sometimes can be the kiss of death to the creative collaborative efforts of hit shows.

7. If you took the time to read this, I appreciate you for doing so, and I hope you enjoy the Film as much as I did. I also hope you appreciate the time and effort they (Lucie & Desi Arnaz, and the Producers & Writers) took to let you see who Lucy and Desi really were as people.

I've been in Television and Entertainment for 40 years and this Film hit all of the buttons for me! Congratulations for an amazing job in a rare medium that was well done.
3 people found this helpful
Carl SchultzReviewed in the United States on December 21, 2021
3.0 out of 5 stars
More Interesting Than Entertaining
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“Being the Ricardos” Distributed by Amazon Studios, 131 Minutes, Rated R, Released December 10, 2021:

“Luuuuuuuuucy, you got some ‘splaining to do!”

The calamities Lucy Ricardo faced in an entire season of TV’s beloved “I Love Lucy” were simple compared with those experienced by its star during a single week of the show’s production, according to “Being the Ricardos,” the new movie from writer/director Aaron Sorkin now streaming on Amazon Prime. And it speaks well of the cast that the movie’s at least as entertaining as an episode or three of the iconic comedy series, but in a different way.

Set in 1952, in “Being the Ricardos” actress Lucille Ball has finally achieved the Hollywood stardom she’s chased through 20 years of lackluster movies. Ironically, her success comes not from motion pictures, but through the medium’s primary new competition--television. Now the star of TV’s most popular comedy series, Lucy’s the queen of the entertainment industry, beloved by millions of devoted fans who schedule their Monday nights around her show.

But there’s a challenge to her throne: Popular syndicated newspaper columnist Walter Winchell has just published a news item claiming that the star of television’s beloved “I Love Lucy” was once a card-carrying communist--an accusation that could topple Lucy’s career overnight during the era of Senator McCarthy, the House Un-American Activities Commission hearings, and the Hollywood Blacklist.

Complicating the star's public relations catastrophe, Lucy’s husband and co-star Desi Arnaz has just been accused in another gossip column of infidelity, his latest in a growing list. Additionally, the show’s writers, producers, and supporting players are bickering among themselves. And Lucy’s doctor has just delivered the news that she and Desi are expecting their first child.

If “Being the Ricardos” sometimes feels a little like a Wikipedia article about Lucille Ball and the history of “I Love Lucy,” it’s because writer and director Aaron Sorkin (TV’s “The West Wing,” “A Few Good Men”) overloads the movie with fun facts and behind-the-scenes details about the show and its stars, skillfully disguising the information as dialogue. The trouble with the movie is that there’s surprisingly little more to it beyond that.

It’s fun to see the dynamics of the show and the relations among the actors playing television’s beloved Lucy, Ricky, Ethel and Fred, but by about the halfway point the viewer might find himself wondering how much of this information he really wants to know. While “Being the Ricardos” comes down squarely against fan magazines and gossip columnists, the real meat and potatoes of the picture is the same stuff that’s kept the National Inquirer in business for some 95 years.

The real enjoyment of “Being the Ricardos” is the characterizations, and they’re almost good enough to redeem the movie. Director Sorkin is wise to reveal Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz slowly--the two legendary entertainers are heard before they’re seen, arguing among themselves about the serial womanizer Desi’s latest tryst. By the time Nicole Kidman and Javier Bardem are finally unveiled as Lucy and Desi, the audience has already grown accustomed to hearing two of the most familiar voices in family entertainment history speaking some decidedly R-rated dialogue.

As Lucy, Kidman’s drawn-on eyebrows give her an expression of perpetual doll-like surprise, but her unblinking blue-eyed stare is disquieting, more appropriate to a suspense picture than a movie biography. And Bardem successfully turns Desi Arnaz into a charming and magnetic rogue, a feat even the real Desi Arnaz could never accomplish. During one rehearsal, a writer risks a joke about Lucy’s spotty movie career, and as she endures the star’s cold, unamused glare, Desi diffuses the awkward situation by chuckling warmly and telling the writer, “That was brave.”

But if “Being the Ricardos” has a breakout performance, it’s J.K.Simmons as Bill Frawley. Movie fans are accustomed to Simmons stealing nearly every picture he appears in, from the “Spider-Man” pictures to “Whiplash,” the movie that earned him an Academy Award. As the aging vaudeville veteran whose career is rescued from obscurity by his casting as Fred Mertz on “I Love Lucy,” Simmons lends Frawley the dignity and grace befitting an old pro, as well as the picture’s most outrageously funny moments.

A handful of TV and movie veterans make brief appearances along the way. Former “I Love Lucy” staff members reminiscing during the modern scenes include Linda Lavin (TV’s “Alice”) as writer Madelyn Pugh and Ronny Cox (“Deliverance”) as her partner Bob Carroll, Jr. That’s John Rubenstein (Broadway’s “Pippin”) as producer Jess Oppenheimer. Tony Award-winning stage actress Nina Arianda, who plays Vivian Vance, also played screen comic Stan Laurel’s wife Ida in 2018’s “Stan & Ollie.”

Released briefly to theaters in major cities on December 10 for limited run prior to its December 21 debut on the Amazon Prime Video streaming service, “Being the Ricardos” is rated R for sexual content and strong language.
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