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Film Review: “Being the Ricardos” Brims with Triumph and Tragedy

Written by: Robin C. Farrell | December 8th, 2021

Film poster: “Being the Ricardos”

Being the Ricardos (Aaron Sorkin, 2021) 3½ out of 4 stars.

There might be some question as to who Being the Ricardos is for. Will this reach a younger generation? Does I Love Lucy mean anything to young adults who didn’t watch the show on Nick At Nite? Maybe not, but the personal struggle at the center should appeal to a fairly broad range of viewers. An equally relevant question associated with any biopic is, of course, how much of this is true?

The film begins with interviews—a startling framing device—which is not included in any of the trailers. They aim to contextualize the film, including a prologue of sorts that launches the narrative: the critical production week during which the fate of I Love Lucy and all its cast and crew hang in the balance. Compared to the otherwise natural and easy flow of the film, the interviews are conspicuously scripted and feel out of place. Beyond that, though, writer/director Aaron Sorkin (The Trial of the Chicago 7) brilliantly recreates classic moments from the groundbreaking sitcom without loitering on them. We get reference and homage but always stay grounded in the present storyline; apart, sometimes, from the framing device.

l-r: Javier Bardem and Nicole Kidman in BEING THE RICARDOS. Photo: Glen Wilson ©AMAZON CONTENT SERVICES, LLC

Nicole Kidman (The Prom) and Javier Bardem (Everybody Knows) are incredible as wife and husband Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. So are Nina Arianda (Stan & Ollie) and J.K. Simmons (Palm Springs). For recreating the famous set and soundstage, along with the less familiar world outside of it, credit is especially due to production designer Jon Hutman (The Christmas Chronicles: Part Two) and art director Andres Cubillan (Godzilla vs. Kong) plus costume designer Susan Lyall (Clifford the Big Red Dog) and the entire makeup department for sometimes uncanny resemblances.

Another of the great aspects of this film, however, is its depiction of the creative process and how intrinsic and urgent that can be across the whole studio system. Being the Ricardos may romanticize some parts of the history, but in other areas it pulls absolutely no punches. The film isn’t as focused in the argument between Lucy’s explanation and defense of her grandfather’s communist leanings, or Desi’s quiet (to a point) testament of how communism personally mangled his life. The interest seems broader than that: the repercussions their personal decisions have on the lives of everyone at the studio, professional and personal, each other included. Some of the impact is triumphant and some of it is heartbreaking, and it’s all interwoven beautifully.

Nina Arianda in BEING THE RICARDOS. Photo: Glen Wilson ©AMAZON CONTENT SERVICES, LLC

So, how much of this is true? Most likely, it’s a pretty even split. The world of the film feels accessible, credible, and whole, unto itself. Being the Ricardos is a portrait of a creative team fighting for their art and careers, and a couple fighting for their marriage, all of which paints a bittersweet and moving portrait of who these people were, or, perhaps, who they could have been.

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Robin C. Farrell is an editor, author, cinephile, and huge geek. She is a core team member of DUO Media Productions, an award-winning video production company in Frederick, MD, a writer and editor for Star Wipe Films. She self-published her first book, Resistance Rising: A Genre Wars Novel, and is the co-host and producer of Coffee & Contemplation, a Stranger Things rewatch podcast.

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