You’ll be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t know the names Lucille Ball or Desi Arnez. Even rarer would be if someone has never heard of I Love Lucy. The series may have been popular television in the 1950s, but is one that generations have grown up watching. It’s family-friendly, it broke boundaries in the industry, and over 70 years later – is still a family favorite film.
But fans of the actors know that the show, despite what fans hope and believe, doesn’t always represent real life. Instead, the marital problems of the cast, the disdain for supporting cast members, and more played out in the tabloids more than the showrunners probably wanted. And while the show had to have a squeaky clean script each week, behind the scenes wasn’t subject to those standards.
Being the Ricardos highlights just a few of these issues the actors and the show had during its popular run. If you’re expecting just a quaint behind-the-scenes look and a love story tossed in, adjust your expectations now. The movie picks up the week that Lucille is publically named a member of the Communist Party and the whole fate of the show and her career hangs in the balance. Yes, you’ll see the Lucy and Desi meet-cute. But you’ll also see the parts of their marriage that weren’t publicized until after it ended. Is everything playing out on the screen 100% accurate to what happened between the couple? We won’t really ever know, but it’s probably the closest look at their relationship we’ll get out of the books written about it after their divorce.
The movie also touches on the strained relationship between Vivian Vance and William Frawley (Fred and Ethel). Their dislike for each other and how they acted through it. With their careers on the line as well, it shares a possible moment of camaraderie between the two. It highlights the struggles Vance had with her weight and keeping a balance between her desire to lose weight and the image the show wanted for her. In one poignant line Lucy tells her that “More women look like you than me, don’t you want them to see themselves in you?” as almost a way to manipulate her into getting her to stay the images she wanted her to be on screen. While the group may have been the perfect comedic combination for the era – off-screen their ideas and lives didn’t seem to work well together.
When the movie’s cast was first announced, I can’t say that I loved the choices of Nicole Kidman as Lucy and Javier Bardem as Desi. It didn’t fit my image of who would portray the iconic actors on the screen. This seems to be the initial response to most people when the casting announcements were made and clips of the film were starting to be released. But, I’m happy to say that on both parts – I was wrong. Kidman plays almost a flawless Lucy – who you see disappear into the on-the-screen version of the 50’s housewife and then as Lucy out of character. Bardem, who doesn’t quite hit the physical representation of Desi, plays the character so well that you forget that it’s someone else altogether. Both actor’s performances are ones that will get attention and pull audiences into the movie. We expect to see awards for both in the coming months.
Should fans of the I Love Lucy show head out to see Being the Ricardos (or stream it later this month)? Absolutely. While it may not be the family-friendly show that we grew up with and maybe expected at the onset, this movie is one that you’ll thoroughly enjoy. It gives you a glimpse behind the curtain and gives you a better understanding of who Lucy and Desi truly were. It is a movie that fans will enjoy, beautifully shot, well-acted, and one that you’ll want to see again. Being the Ricardos will be in select theaters this weekend and on Amazon Prime Video on December 21st.
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About Being The Ricardos
Lucille Ball (Nicole Kidman) and Desi Arnaz (Javier Bardem) are threatened by shocking personal accusations, a political smear, and cultural taboos in Academy Award®-winning writer and director Aaron Sorkin’s behind-the-scenes drama Being the Ricardos. A revealing glimpse of the couple’s complex romantic and professional relationship, the film takes audiences into the writers’ room, onto the soundstage, and behind closed doors with Ball and Arnaz during one critical production week of their groundbreaking sitcom I Love Lucy. Featuring J.K. Simmons, Nina Arianda, Alia Shawkat, Tony Hale, Jake Lacy, Linda Lavin, Ronny Cox, and John Rubinstein.