Review by Dan Skip Allen
Aaron Sorkin has been attached to Being the Ricardos for a while now. This film had a couple of stops and starts. At one time Cate Blanchett was attached to the film as Lucille Ball until Sorkin settled on Nicole Kidman instead. Sorkin wasn't originally going to be the director until he couldn't find one for the project. He's got the hang of it now after directing The Trial of the Chicago 7. Amazon came aboard and the film was finally ready to go with Kidman as Ball and Sorkin as director. It was definitely worth the wait.
Being the Ricardos is a week in the life of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. There is a framing device where ex-members of the cast and crew of I Love Lucy tell the story of said week in the form of a documentary style. This week rotates between Lucy and Desi's personal life and them both working on the show with small vignettes of reenacted episodes in black and white. This shows a distinct difference between the show and the description of the events of the week as a whole on set and off.
Getting first-hand accounts of this week in the life of these characters is a great way to tell this story. A lot of television shows such as The Office and the film Black Mass used this technique perfectly. Sorkin balanced the various scenes and styles of filmmaking perfectly. He bounced back and forth effortlessly from doc style, episodes, and described events of the week. Having such a great script makes it easier to direct the actors who are devouring the words like food from the dinner table. This script is like a chef's kiss. Sorkin's quick dialogue and snappy banter are perfect for this film. As perfect as perfect gets. It couldn't be better and Sorkin will surely garner another Academy Award nomination for writing the screenplay of this film.
The cast in the film is very good including Oscar winners J.K. Simmons as William Frawley, a member of the show and friend of Ball's, Javier Bardem as Desi Arnaz, Ball's husband both on and off-screen and producer of the show, and Nicole Kidman as Lucille Ball herself. She gets all the family drama situations with Bardem's Arnaz and all the ins and outs of the onset stuff from the sitcom I Love Lucy. The various situations show that Kidman was the right person for this role. She exudes excellence. She's been killing it for years on television shows like Big Little Lies and The Undoing. Her career keeps rolling forward with one great performance after another no matter what genre or style it may be. She's still at the top of her game.
Films about old Hollywood or the past have to capture the whole vibe and feel of the era they are taking place in and Being the Ricardos does that in spades. It has amazing set production and production value. From the clothes to all the onset stuff from the show, Sorkin and company get everything right. The cigarette smoke, the lighting, and the camera angles are all shot very nicely. Every aspect of production is handled with care and professionalism. This entire production is done on a first-rate level hitherto unseen. Old Hollywood has been done before in films, but not as good as this film.
Being the Ricardos isn't an episode of the show I Love Lucy, even though little segments are shown in black and white. It is a microscope into the lives of the people on the show, the production team, and mainly Arnaz and Ball themselves. Everybody involved in the film gets the beats of who these people are so perfectly. Little things like reshooting a dinner scene or arguing about the motivation of characters and their decisions in the show are handled deeply and subtly.
The film gets all the geopolitical climate at the time of the 1950s perfect. From the prejudices of producers to disagreements with the producer Jess Oppenheimer (Tony Hale), the film shows the power struggles Ball has. She has to have her way in a world of men. She fights for everything she gets, even things for her husband, Arnaz. Personal attacks on her character and her patriotism are at the forefront of this film. It's one of the best biopics in recent years, and this year is packed with great biopics. This film gets to the bottom of who these people are, especially Ball. With all the struggles she's going through, she still creates a great character on the screen each week for millions of people to watch and adore.
The best picture race this year, like every year, is an incredible race. At least a dozen or more films are contenders for those ten slots at next year's Academy Awards. I am here to say Being the Ricardos should be in that number. It's easily one of the best films I've seen all year. It has everything going for it from an incredible script from wordsmith Aaron Sorkin to the amazing cast led by three Oscar winners. This film has everything going for it. The production aspects from the camera work and set production to the score are all top-notch. The framing device even worked to perfection. This film just shows that you never know the true story of something or someone until you ask what really happened. I Love Lucy just doesn't do Lucille Ball justice as a person even though it tried to.
Being the Ricardos hits theaters on December 10 and Amazon Prime on December 21.