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Being the Ricardos
Review by Rich Cline | MUST SEE
dir-scr Aaron Sorkin
prd Todd Black, Jenna Block, Jason Blumenthal, Steve Tisch
with Nicole Kidman, Javier Bardem, JK Simmons, Nina Arianda, Tony Hale, Alia Shawkat, Jake Lacy, Linda Lavin, Ronny Cox, John Rubinstein, Clark Gregg, Christopher Denham
release US/UK 10.Dec.21
21/US Amazon 2h05
Is it streaming?
Leave it to Aaron Sorkin to pay homage to pioneering sitcom I Love Lucy while also provoking pungent issues that span television history. This is a remarkably clever film, infused with wit and energy to offer a knowing backstage glimpse into the early days of the medium and how culture has evolved since it arrived. It also reminds us how this iconic show and its creators changed the business forever.
During five days of production on their show in 1952, Lucille Ball (Kidman) and her costar-husband Desi Arnaz (Bardem) are faced with three potentially career-altering situations: Lucy is branded as a Communist by a major journalist, Desi is caught by paparazzi with a starlet, and Lucy's pregnancy causes consternation for network executives who insist it is inappropriate to include in a TV show's storyline. Their costars William and Vivian (Simmons and Arianda) weigh in with their own perspectives, as do the show's writing team (Hale, Shawkat and Lacy) as careers teeter on the brink.
The writers also pop up in present-day interviews (played by Rubinstein, Lavin and Cox) remembering these events. With six decades of fans, there's a lot of nostalgic fun scattered throughout the movie, as Sorkin drops in key references and flashbacks to also craft a biopic about Ball's early career and how she met Arnaz, started a family and created a groundbreaking empire. These elements are expertly woven together by editor Alan Baumgarten. And black-and-white moments from the show add a zing to the story.
Remarkably, the actors never turn these indelible characters into sketch-comedy figures. While there are moments of jaw-dropping mimicry, each is a complex person who transcends we think we know, pulling us in emotionally. Kidman and Bardem create sizzling chemistry as passionate partners on-camera, in their company and at home. The actors' insight shouldn't be surprising, but it is. Also excellent are Simmons and Arianda, whose individual plot threads dovetail beautifully into the main narrative. And the surrounding ensemble is just as strong.
An opening note reminds us that 60 million Americans watched I Love Lucy each week (top shows today attract about 10 million), which puts scandalous gossip into remarkably resonant context for audiences in the cancel-culture era. Sorkin ingeniously isolates an engaging sense of human nature that's equally recognisable for celebrities, fans and those who love to expose juicy facts, whether or not they're true. And even more importantly, Sorkin tells a deeply personal story that entertains with its tension and ultimately touches our hearts.
R E A D E R R E V I E W SStill waiting for your comments ... don't be shy.
© 2021 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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