By: Amanda Guarragi
Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz shaped American television in the early 50s. The slapstick comedy that Lucy did so well brought so much joy and laughter into everyone’s homes. Even though “Lucy” was her persona, Lucille Ball had a tough rise to fame as a woman in the industry. She went through so much off-screen that no one realizes how difficult she had it. She’s one of the first women to breakthrough the vicious cycle of the studio system to create something of her own, I Love Lucy. She was so in love with her husband that she would have done anything for him. The one thing Aaron Sorkin’s Being the Ricardos does right is highlight her fearlessness and tenacity as a comedic actor and a woman.
Again, Aaron Sorkin takes on writing the screenplay and directing his own film. Unfortunately, this time, the structure of this story suffered immensely. Lucille Ball’s life is filled with plenty of important moments, so it’s impossible to highlight everything. Sorkin is a strong screenwriter, but even he couldn’t create a cohesive narrative that could encapsulate what it is to be Lucille Ball. The angle he chose to focus on will make you lose interest quickly because it is the most uninteresting thing about her. Sorkin chose to focus on a very minor detail of her being slandered in the paper about being a communist and after that, the story is pulled in many different directions.
The strongest moments are on the television set, whether they were in-between scenes, or having offset conversations, all of it worked for me. We got to see Lucy (Nicole Kidman) and Desi (Javier Bardem) behind-the-scenes with William Frawley (J.K. Simmons) and Vivian Vance (Nina Arianda). The biggest issue is that the actors, Bardem and Kidman, did not lose themselves in this role. It felt like they were mimicking Lucy and Desi because the script wasn’t interesting enough to get lost in the dialogue, in order to blur those two aspects. On the other hand, Simmons and Arianda stole the spotlight whenever they were on screen and completely embodied Frawley and Vance.
The lesson after watching Being the Ricardos is that the biggest stars or the best actors can sometimes take away from the intimacy of the roles you are presenting on screen. Sorkin’s direction was uninspired and very static when it came to framing certain scenes within scenes during the television sequences. The placement of certain scenes to show Lucille’s growth and eventual downfall with Desi did not work and that’s because the editing was jarring. If Sorkin just focused in on their marriage failing while working together, this would have been a much stronger film and maybe, we would have gotten better performances from the leads.