Being the Ricardos Movie Review
In another dimension, Aaron Sorkin has written another smart, smarmy, and riveting film on a seemingly innocuous topic, brought to life by an A-list director. But in this dimension, we’ve been given Being the Ricardos, a bland look at a small but significant stretch of the careers of Lucille Ball and husband Desi Arnez as they bring to life the hit television series I Love Lucy.
Sorkin both writes and directs the drama, which confusingly bounces around in the 1950s as Ball battles studio executives, rumors of being a communist, and bad jokes in the writing room. Expect the fast dialogue and banter Sorkin is known for, paired with the vanilla direction Sorkin has yet to mature after three attempts behind the camera. In the hands of a better director, Sorkin’s screenplay might have resulted in sparks, but Being the Ricardos unfortunately limps versus leaps. A more traditional biopic approach--told in chronological order--would have helped; the film lacks momentum, often feeling as if it’s moving backwards rather than forward.
Much has been written about the key casting; while I know very little about Lucille Ball or her alter ego, Nicole Kidman lacks the spunk or charisma to bring whatever version of the actress/producer may have clicked with audiences to life. Kidman is a good actress, but she fails to tap into, let alone emulate, what made Ball a household name. Javier Bardem, meanwhile, seems to be the only one in Being the Ricardos looking to actually entertain the audience; he is bombastic and zippy and charismatic in the way you’d expect a Sorkin character to be. Ironically, there are multiple scenes where Ball defends her husband, pointing out that Cubans aren’t to be confused with Spaniards--even though Bardem is most certainly a Spaniard, not a Cuban.
Being the Ricardos isn’t without its strengths, but Sorkin appears to have lost his edge; he seems more intent in making award bait these days than actually crafting good movies. Next time, best to be as critical about entertaining the audience as Lucille Ball clearly was.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.