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'Being the Ricardos' Movie Review

Being the Ricardos Nicole Kidman Javier Bardem

Desi Arnaz’s notorious womanizing shrouded his legacy in a negative way compared to Lucille Ball but Aaron Sorkin’s BEING THE RICARDOS starring Nicole Kidman and Javier Bardem as the power couple brings to light how influential he was in Hollywood and how he single-handedly saved his I Love Lucy costar from being blacklisted in the 50s. The clever script also provides insight into Lucille Ball’s process behind her Lucy Ricardo hijinks.

BEING THE RICARDOS takes place in a week’s span when two crises threaten their marriage and careers. As the two go through their regular process of producing and preparing for their shows, tabloid newspapers report of Desi’s infidelity and Lucille’s career is in jeopardy when accusations of being a Communist member are about to go public.

Sorkin's movie brings to light how much influence Desi had in Hollywood as the first and only Latino to run a multi-million dollar production company with Desilu Productions along with Ball as the first female Hollywood executive and owner. Desi doesn’t get as much credit as a television pioneer. I Love Lucy was the first television show to bring in a live audience and the first to use a multi-camera setup used in today’s sitcoms. While the two ran Desilu together, Desi was a powerful figure calling the shots with the studio and sponsors. He had a lot of pull if we are to believe the events in Sorkin’s BEING THE RICARDOS. As a woman trailblazer, she was hampered because she was a female operating in a male-dominated industry, but in this story, Desi had her back. Whatever she wanted, he made it happen. That dynamic was a surprising twist in the story that will endear fans to the famous couple even more.

None of the actors resemble the famous faces from I Love Lucy, but despite that Kidman, Bardem, Nina Arianda as Vivian Vance (aka Ethel) and J.K. Simmons as William Frawley (aka Fred) deliver compelling performances that suck you into the story. As Lucy Ricardo, Kidman does capture her mannerisms which gives you a sense of nostalgia, but you also realize her on-screen persona was very different from that of Lucille Ball. Javier Bardem as Desi Arnaz took a little longer to get used to given the huge difference in the voices. Bardem’s raspy tone is much different than Desi’s higher pitch. However, Bardem wins you over with Desi’s charm and love for his wife as a supportive partner who encourages her to be the star she deserves.

For I Love Lucy fans, BEING THE RICARDOS reveals the inner workings of the iconic comedy and how hard Lucille and Desi had to fight to make things happen like showing the first pregnancy on television and the first interracial couple. Lucy’s process in creating her tv personality is also touched upon. She imagined the scenarios in rehearsal and made changes which no doubt bettered the show but it put her in conflict with the creative personnel but Desi went to bat for her.

Desi and Lucy didn’t live the ideal life seen on I Love Lucy so the question was how was Aaron Sorkin going to deal with the dark workings of that tumultuous relationship that may turn off fans of the iconic show. The writer/director manages to present a love story that despite Desi’s infidelity (which he doesn’t show) - there was no question he loved her and he went to great lengths to protect her from being blacklisted in the 1950s which ended many Hollywood talent’s careers in that decade.

Fans of I Love Lucy will no doubt enjoy BEING THE RICARDOS but first, they must get past the resemblance issues. For me, it took two viewings to appreciate what Sorkin has done in this movie.

BEING THE RICARDOS is in movie theaters Friday and on Prime Video on December 21.

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