“Follows Lucy and Desi as they face a crisis that could end their careers and another that could end their marriage.”

Director: Aaron Sorkin
Writers: Aaron Sorkin
Staring: Nicole Kidman, Javier Bardem, J.K. Simmons, Nina Arianda, Alia Shawkat
Release Date: December 21, 2021

Being The Ricardos (2021) is a close-up inspection on the marriage and personalities of Lucille Ball (Nicole Kidman) and Desi Arnaz (Javier Bardem) during the most stressful time of their lives. The strength of trust of their marriage is rocky and the continuation of their beloved “I Love Lucy” program is jeopardized when Ball is accused of being a Communist.

Through the sharp-witted dialogue of Aaron Sorkin’s script, Kidman and Bardem portray Ball and Arnaz as they navigate these struggles. Being The Ricardos takes the audience backstage of two of the biggest stars in television history and shines a light on the dangers of egos and stubbornness during a time when humility and quietness would seem ideal.

Let’s get this out of the way. Nicole Kidman is the best part of Being The Ricardos. I fell in love with Nicole Kidman’s version of Lucille Ball. Among the remarkable acts the Oscar-nominated star achieves in this story, the best comes in the way she blends Ball’s ability to compartmentalize her personal life and how she lets those oozing explode to her personal life. She is two different types of people; one when she is talking to Desi as her husband, and the other when she is talking shop with the writers, directors and crew.

Kidman has a bit of a pleading quality with Desi, asking him questions on situations regarding his loyalty to their marriage. Asking him questions about his whereabouts and his actions while away from home. While she is inclinations, she does not act upon them instantaneously. However, you get on the stage or in the writer’s room, Ball is a wrecking ball. Kidman delivers crisp lines of rebuttal and focuses her precise nature under the lens that is for the show itself. She holds everyone accountable. She is the type of boss who does not say good job; she demands the best and a good day will be when you don’t get looked at or acknowledged.

The one scene where Ball’s two worlds collide is when she calls William Frawley (J.K. Simmons) and Vivian Vance (Nina Arianda) to the studio stage at 2 AM to go over fixing the dinner scene for the upcoming episode. Ball has just found tangible evidence that her husband has been lying to her, and what she does to cope is to obsess over her work. I can relate to this %110. Frawley and Vance notice that something is up with Ball, and her resolve to keep those two worlds separate has begun leaking through the seams.

Javier Bardem accepted this role and openly lied to Sorkin that he knew how to sing. He learned how to use his vocals and the leap he took to get this part as Desi Arnaz is worth the risk he took. Bardem got an Oscar nomination for his part, which is more cartoonish than her wife’s part. Desi is the typical Hollywood man who loves the spotlight. Arnaz takes a public back stage approach with Ball; allowing her to be the star of “I Love Lucy” and allowing her to call most of the shots.

However, as is shown in some flashbacks, we know that Desi enjoys the attention his talents can bring. Turns out that the way he builds up the patience for doing all the behinds the scenes work but taking a back seat when on screen is by spending time with prostitutes. The remarkable thing Arnaz is that you can totally believe that he still loves Lucy while cheating on her. The sex he was having with other women was not out of disloyalty, but rather out of egotism.

The final interaction we see between Lucy and Desi is perfectly on par for both characters. Lucy is asking Desi questions, begging for the truth and she needs to hear the answer from him. When she plays him with the two handkerchiefs, we all know there are no words that can be said by Desi to make the situation better. He is cornered and his ego has just took the biggest knockout punch it can take. Lucy however, the last thing we see her do is put on a smile and say “let’s get back to work, we have a show to do.”

The second best acting performance in this movie comes from script writer Madelyn Pugh, played by Alia Shawkat. She has the same venomous barbs that Lucy does. She writes comedy for the show, but she here best lines come out of her own mouth. She is competing constantly for validation, and she is not afraid to voice that. She is the most brutally honest with Lucy at times, calling her out on her mannerisms and how in this particular week she is being more overbearing than normal.

Kidman, Bardem and Simmons are all nominated for Oscars, but I would have rather seen Alia Shawkat get a nomination in the Supporting Actress category than Simmons in Supporting Actor. I have no ill-will against Kidman and Bardem getting to attend the most prestigious award ceremony of the year. What is most shocking is that Sorkin got no love at all from the Academy.

Is this the best Sorkin script? Now, I would say not. Is it still exceptionally good? Yes. From that movies I have seen this year, the conversation within Being The Ricardos makes it one of the better original screenplays in the year 2021. It tackles and humanizes one of the most famous television celebrities ever. If there is one area to nit-pick it is the historical context surrounding I Love Lucy. The communism and red scare going around the United States took out stars and blacklisted many famous names. The scare that this put into the show seemed a bit lesser than it could have been with the power of Lucy and Desi.

How does Being The Ricardos screenplay rank to other Sorkin movie scripts? That is going to be coming in a blog shortly once I see Malice (1993) and The American President (1995).

Being The Ricardos is a very good movie with excellent performances. When Nicole Kidman is on the screen, this movie is absolute dynamite. When Bardem and Kidman are on the screen, it is like a deadly number three and number four hitter in the batting order just hitting doubles off the wall non-stop. The supporting cast is very good, and everyone’s abilities are amplified by the script that Sorkin penned.

It is a bit of a surprise to me that so many were not a huge fan of Being The Ricardos as a whole. Compared to the other movies I have seen this year, it easily stands up as one of the better stories. It has one of the best ensemble casts of any in this Oscar season. If you are a sucker of good acting, fast dialogue and a Hollywood story, then go to Amazon Prime and start up Being The Ricardos. You won’t be disappointed. Sorkin very rarely disappoints.

STANKO RATING: B+ (4.0/5 Stars)


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