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Jokes aside, Nicole Kidman is commendable in Aaron Sorkin’s near-watchable “Being the Ricardos”

It’s fascinating to watch “Being the Ricardos”, writer/director Aaron SorkinCruel drama – based on true events – about a difficult week in Lucille Ball’s life (Nicole Kidman) and Desi Arnaz (Javier Bardem). While the film has a ton of problems, it’s laden with lackluster praise, most of which are watchable.

Sorkin’s signature hyper-verbal dialogue is front and center of course, and there’s plenty of scenes where the characters walk and talk. But the controversy between writers Madelyn Pugh (Alia Shawkat) and Bob Carroll (Jake Lacy) on who has a better joke first is the tired one, and the “smart” knockdowns between William Frawley (JK Simmons) and Vivian Vance (Nina Arianda) can sometimes feel boxed like a laugh track. Sorkin’s dialogue works best when Lucy is exceptionally precise in parsing words and meanings when other characters are talking to her. She forces them to double-check whether she should take their comment as an insult or just read it as proof of their stupidity. A great example of this was when she had her last words after meeting with an RKO executive who had canceled her contract with the studio.

Lucy is a tough cookie here, and the casting of Kidman, which has been debated since it was announced, works because Lucy is nervous and vulnerable rather than funny. Kidman makes viewers feel her roller coaster with many emotions. That said, the actress never really disappears in the role, but it’s a commendable performance.

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As Desi, Bardem’s diversion is also powerful, even if he sounds like the last famous Cuban the actor played – poet and novelist. Reinaldo Arenas. Bardem makes Desi charming in a comic strip by silencing the “h” after the “g” when pronouncing “Westinghouse” and manipulative when performing some musical numbers. But he also shows real mettle in the scenes dealing with the clothes on set – though he’s no steadier when Desi fights Lucy.

“Being the Ricardos” opens when Walter Winchell made a veiled suggestion on Sunday radio that Lucille Ball was a communist. Lucy admits to having “picked the box” 20 years ago, but she has never attended a meeting or been associated with the Communist Party. If the media gets hold of the story, it will end the couple’s professional careers.

Another bomb went off when “Confidential” magazine ran a story that Desi had cheated on his wife. However, the couple admitted the photo is old and the story may not be true. Desi denies it, and Lucy wants to believe him.

The third situation that arises is that Lucy is pregnant, and this development will need to be written into the program. Alas, host Jess Oppenheimer (Tony Hale) asserts that the operator will not allow it.

Sorkin has plenty of material here that looks at the relationship between the celebrity couple at their most famous moment and how they tackled these issues independently and together. But why shoot only three, when one person can shoot six? Sorkin dubs “Being the Ricardos” unnecessary scenes, such as a series of interviews decades later with Jess (John Rubinstein), Madelyn (Linda Lavin) and Bob (Ronny Cox) to provide layers. context. These doctrinal interruptions feel unnecessary and characterize the business model that displays uncomfortably sparkling.

Sorkin also weaved his story around the rehearsal, interception, and filming of an episode of “I Love Lucy” titled “Fred and Ethel Fight”. (Let’s take the metaphor, Aaron!) This gives Lucy an opportunity to illustrate how she’s in control of everything on her show, choreographing the comedy of a two o’clock dinner table sequence. Lucy also worries about making a believable prologue, about the weight of Vivian Vance, and working with a director, Don Glass (Christopher Denham). Furthermore, she also hopes to save her marriage by asking Jess to let Desi be the show’s executive producer. Now Sorkin up to 12 panels. It’s hard not to feel exhausted or wince as some take the plunge.


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All this drama is engaging and fluid but it never ends. The communist plot hangs in the background like a sword of Damocles, ultimately building to a life-or-death moment just before the week’s episode is taped, but it doesn’t add much tension to the story. Preferably it is used to show Lucy’s moxie; she has no regrets about “checking the box” and gets angry when Desi tells everyone she “checked the wrong box”, as if belittling her thoughts and actions.

That feeling made her worry about her marriage and the time Lucy and Desi really spent together. Even if “Being the Ricardos” primarily takes Lucy’s perspective, it at least serves a purpose. A scene of Desi, leaving the club after a show, he ignores his young female fans to go see his wife. Instead, when Lucy attended a performance, everyone in the club surrounded her. The imbalance in their relationship is felt throughout, even in a flashback where she’s excited to be cast in “The Big Street,” just as Desi is set to go on tour.

Sorkin also makes up for it by showcasing Lucy’s brazenness at every opportunity, from repeatedly insulting her director to making terms for turning the “My Favorite Husband” radio show into a sitcom television, “I Love Lucy” in a variety of executives. Much more powerful are the moments when Lucy imagines the potential of the comics when Lucy stomps grapes, or when she and William Frawley come together in a bar.

“Being the Ricardos” never fully understands what makes Lucy tick even if Kidman does get into her steadfast mind. But witness a depressed Lucy walking in the rain after a nasty discovery gilding lilies.

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Sorkin’s movies can feel sloppy in many ways. “I Love Lucy” purists might scoff that the series’ “Frede and Ethel” is, in fact, Episode 22 of Season 1, not Episode 37 like “Being the” Ricardos” pointed out. The filmmaker may be using poetic license to fold in reference to Lucy’s famous “Vitametavegamin” line (Season 1, Episode 30). But it could only be part of Sorkin’s spin. He’s carrying too many things here. Some of it pays off. Simmons and Shawkat provide reliable support, and the movie from the setting to the costumes is superb. But most of “Being the Ricardos” lacks the magic it’s trying to capture.

“Being the Ricardos” is currently showing in theaters and streaming on Prime Video starting Tuesday, December 21. Watch the movie trailer below, via YouTube.

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https://www.salon.com/2021/12/21/being-the-ricardos-review-prime-video/ Jokes aside, Nicole Kidman is commendable in Aaron Sorkin’s near-watchable “Being the Ricardos”

Huynh Nguyen

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