Review by Camden Ferrell
Amy Poehler is most known for her comedic talents on screen, being a staple of Saturday Night Live and Parks and Recreation. In recent years, she has turned her focus to the director’s chair, helming films such as Wine Country and Moxie. 2022 sees the release of her first documentary Lucy and Desi. This is a very comprehensive look at the life and career of the titular television icons, but it can sometimes suffer from being far too conventional to stand out.
Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz are television legends whose fame and influence has spanned multiple generations. I Love Lucy was what they were most known for, but they each had a much more extensive career beyond that particular show. This documentary explores, in great detail, these icons and the legacy they left in the form of their work and influence.
One of the most commendable aspects of this movie is how comprehensive and cohesive it is. Poehler does a solid job of telling a straightforward story without making it convoluted or complex. This allows everything to flow quite nicely even if it’s a style and rhythm that we’ve seen several times before. Its dedication to being concise and simultaneously thorough is its biggest strength and the source of its main flaw.
The movie is so dedicated to a tried and tested formula that it doesn’t really do anything unique to set it apart from other documentaries of this type. I’ll concede that its use of archival footage is better than most, but considering its subjects, this footage shouldn’t have been hard to come by. Regardless, from start to finish, it feels far too safe and conventional for such revolutionary pioneers of television.
Despite its flaws, it’s the first directorial effort from Poehler that truly exhibits her abilities as a storyteller. It’s clear that she made this documentary with the best of intentions, and it’s clear she’s knowledgeable about its subject, and that make this the kind of story she can tell skillfully. Her directorial debut lacked a lot of heart for me, but this documentary shows us that she’s a filmmaker who knows how to inject heart into her projects when the time is right.
Lucy and Desi is a documentary for the couple’s biggest fans, and it’s also accessible for new viewers and novices. It’s conventional to a fault, but it’s as comprehensive a look as one could expect about this legendary comedic couple.
Lucy and Desi will stream exclusively on Prime Video March 4.