The heart of Being The Ricardos is Nicole Kidman’s Lucille and Javier Bardem’s Desi partnership, which comes out on top after a week of on-screen scrutiny, while simultaneously disintegrating.
A movie written by Aaron Sorkin doesn’t just start with a trickle, the floodgates open in the first scene. Think Social network (2010), the memorable opening inside a bar throws us right in the middle of this couple arguing about people with perfect SAT scores, people rowing or inventing “25 PCs.” dollars â. But the pace of the scene is such that even if you get lost in the conversation, you understand that the protagonist (played by Jesse Eisenberg) is talking about standing out on a campus filled with the brightest minds in the country. He talks about getting into an end club, and when his partner (played by Rooney Mara) tries to feign his support, he’s condescending to her. So she breaks up with him. And so, a match is lit for an idea that ultimately becomes Facebook. It may be far from the truth, but the joke associated with David Fincher’s precise cut is so delicious it almost doesn’t matter.
There is something similar in Sorkin’s latest venture, Being the Ricardos, the one who also sees him direct his third consecutive feature film after Molly’s game (2017) and last year The Chicago 7 trial. Set behind the scenes of one of America’s most popular sitcoms, I love lucy (1951-1957) the film traces the relationship between its protagonists, who also formed a real couple: Lucille Ball (played by Nicole Kidman) and her Cuban-American husband, Desi Arnez (played by Javier Bardem). Known for being frothy and burlesque onscreen personalities, the film follows the couple through a hectic week, when they are accused of having links to the Communist Party (which would immediately result in their being blacklisted).
It can certainly alienate many of us who aren’t familiar with the âMcCarthy eraâ or who didn’t grow up hearing about the Legends of Ball and Arnez on our TV screens. But as is true with most anecdotes in a scene from Sorkin, the action ultimately comes down to what he * actually * wants to discuss.
In Being the Ricardos, director Sorkin wants to give us a taste of the making of America’s biggest TV show. He insists that the process of writing insane shows with countless physical comedy gags is completely at odds with the fun nature of the show. In a way, this movie is a throwback to Sorkin’s. Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, a show that took us behind the scenes of a Saturday Night Live-type comedy sketch. At some point in Being the Ricardos, one writer remembers the nerves during that week when Lucy acted like her life depended on whether a joke was a ‘B’ or a ‘B +’. Also, Sorkin tries to give us a picture of Ball and Arnez’s domestic situation. He maintains that while the couple seemed perpetually happy to play each other’s jokes for national entertainment, they were incredibly intelligent and receptive to each other’s talents. Like most Sorkin couples, as they constantly bicker about the craziest things on the one hand, and finish sentences on the other when it really matters as well.
Kidman’s Lucille Ball has an underlying obscurity, where she can be seen grappling with her fame as a B-List actor turned into a comedic relief. She has been extremely astute as a businessman, knowing that it is her image as a “stupid woman” that is responsible for the popularity of the series. When a writer tries to reason with her to reverse this image, she shuts it down. There’s also a scene where she insists her co-actor (played by Nina Arianda) has to put on some weight, look like an “all women”, once she notices how bad she is starting to be. as attractive (if not more) than Lucy. Javier Bardem is the real revelation of this movie in the role of a beta Desi Arnez, where he multiplies the charm by a factor of 10. Bardem’s stamp is put to good use, as he performs hits like “Cuban Pete” while into effortless shimmying. It’s a superficial and punchy role, but it’s thanks to Bardem’s chops as an actor that he invests some real personality in Desi.
At the heart of this story is this partnership between Lucille and Desi, which emerges as the winner after a week of on-screen scrutiny, while simultaneously disintegrating. As the I love lucy showrunners sweat thinking of the result of the slanders leveled against their lead actor, there is also a story reported in a gossip magazine about Desi’s affairs. There are mentions of how Lucille dreamed of owning a “home” with a family to return to. With Lucy being the alpha on set and stories about Desi’s adventures, it made this relationship hard to navigate.
Ultimately, Being the Ricardos is little more than a snapshot of the legacy of two television icons. It is probably also a large version of the truth, and yet it all works like a rousing symphony. As longtime fans of the Sorkin Dialogue will attest: We CAN handle the truth, but that’s not what we’re here for.
Being The Ricardos is streaming on Amazon Prime.
Tatsam Mukherjee has been working as a film journalist since 2016. He is based in Delhi NCR.