Movie Review Being the Ricardos (7/10)

 

Being the Ricardos (7/10)

by Tony Medley

125 minutes.

R.

Writer director Aaron Sorkin must have a clause in his contract that any movie with which he is involved must have a two hour plus runtime, regardless of the content. Don’t get me wrong, Sorkin is a talented writer and there are movies that used his plus time to favorable effect, like A Few Good Men (1992). But not this one.

The tale of Lucille Ball (Nicole Kidman, who, at 5’10,” reflects Ball’s relative tallness at 5’7”) and Desi Arnaz (Javier Bardem) is told focusing on one week in the production life of their seminal TV show I Love Lucy. Problem is that the troubles pictured in this movie did not all occur within the same week. They are, to wit, Ball is accused of being a Communist, she is pregnant, she wants Desi to have a Producer’s credit, Desi is playing around, etc.

Well, Desi was playing around throughout their marriage, not just this one week. He was Hispanic and Hispanic men traditionally think that the marriage contract includes a clause that allows them to play around willy-nilly.

Walter Winchell accused Ball of being a Communist in the fall of 1953 and her pregnancy was written into the show in 1952; her son was born in January of 1953, so there was no connection.

The movie bounces back and forth from the week covered to show Ball’s history, and spends not enough time on the development of the TV show, which would have been interesting.

To it’s discredit it barely mentions Desi’s alcoholism and minimizes his infidelity that was so bad that Ball filed suit for divorce as early as 1944, which she later withdrew and stayed with him for another 16 years.

According to this movie, Desi was the power behind the throne, helping to develop the three-camera technique in front of a live audience and filming all the shows while retaining the rights to them, which created the rerun industry that is enormously lucrative.

While the film mentions the three-camera technique as a throwaway, I don’t remember it covering the rerun issue. Sorkin wasted his time covering minor issues like the pregnancy and Desi getting a producer’s credit. It would have been much, much better had it covered the issues mentioned above in more depth. These were ground-breaking things. Had he done so, the two-hour running time would have been justified and the movie would have been far more informative.

All the supporting players give fine performances, especially Nina Arianda and J.K Simmons as Vivian Vance and William Frawley, respectively, playing Ethel and Fred Mertz in the show. Neither look much like the people they are playing but they display the animosity that pervaded between the two in real life.

Although too long considering what it chose to cover, both Kidman and Barden give wonderful performances. Who knows how accurate they are? I doubt Bardem’s is very faithful to Desi’s dissolute character.

Despite a perfect opportunity lost by glossing over/omitting the important accomplishments of their ground-breaking lives, I give this a weak positive mark due only to the performances of the cast.

Image Credit and Amazon Studios

Tony Medley is an attorney, columnist, and MPAA-accredited film critic whose reviews and articles may be read in several newspapers and at rottentomatoes.com, CWEB.com, RobinhoodNews.com, Movie Review Query Engine (mrqe.com), and at www.tonymedley.com. His most recent book is “Learn to Play Bridge Like a Boss,” the most complete “all in one” book for beginners and also for advanced players. He is also the author of three books, UCLA Basketball: The Real Story, Sweaty Palms: The Neglected Art of Being Interviewed, the first book ever written on the interview for the interviewee and still in print after more than thirty years, having sold over a half million copies, and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Bridge, which has sold over 100,000 copies. He is an American Contract Bridge League Silver Life Master and an ACBL accredited director.


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