Saturday, December 25, 2021

Being the Ricardos

Movie Name:
Being the Ricardos
Year of Release: 2021
Director: Aaron Sorkin
Starring: Nicole Kidman, Javier Bardem, Nina Arianda, J.K. Simmons, Tony Hale, Alia Shawkat, Linda Lavin, Ronny Cox, John Rubinstein, Clark Gregg, Nelson Franklin, Jake Lacy, Ron Perkins, Jeff Holman, Jonah Platt
Genre: Drama
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 3
Watch it on Amazon

Synopsis and Review:
After the well received "The Trial of the Chicago 7", writer/director Aaron Sorkin is back, this time around tackling a new feature for another streaming giant, Amazon. The film centers around a particularly challenging week in the life of Lucille Ball and her husband Desi Arnaz, as they were going through the taping of their very successful show, "I Love Lucy". The film which takes place in the 1950s, focuses on a week in which Lucille Ball, then riding the wave of popularity due to the success of her show, is being investigated on suspicions of being tied to the Communist party. It's a week where she and her husband Desi, are having relationship issues, since she believes he's being unfaithful, while they're simultaneously working on their upcoming new season of the show (and her possible pregnancy being incorporated into the show). It's a stressful week for everyone, and as they navigate these various challenges, the creative process of getting the show running fluidly creates tension/friction with the writers, show runner, sponsors, other actors, not to mention the Broadcast channel itself.
Aaron Sorkin continues the path of writing and directing narratives centered on actual existing individuals (living or deceased), this time around focusing on the iconic duo of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. Biopics are always challenging, since it can be quite a task to try to compress someone's existence into a 2 hour film. This particular mechanism of focusing on a challenging time on these characters existence, is a way to succinctly illustrate their relationship, but also to do so in a limited timeline. While I personally have to admit I've never watched an episode of "I Love Lucy" or any of her subsequent shows, I had some trepidation going into this film since I do admire Aaron Sorkin's writing, particularly what he did with David Fincher's "The Social Network" and also Danny Boyle's "Steve Jobs". As it turns out, this film fails to both fully capture the relationship between the central characters, but also how they navigate the political and social environment of the 1950s. While the film does have its strong points, particularly when it comes to showcase Lucille's involvement in the creative process of shaping her own show, it also fails to make Lucille a fully fledged character, someone who is more than just a perpetually distressed or annoyed individual. For a film that is about one of the most well known comedians in Hollywood, this film is also devoid of any semblance of humor at all. Both Lucille and Desi are very much reduced to these two players on a game of their own, where one bickers and the other one deflects, never really properly illustrating how they lived together, what held them together, or for that matter, what even kept them going. The supporting cast is a bit more favored in this regard, since J.K. Simmons and Nina Arianda, respectively playing William Frawley and Vivian Vance manage to create more compellingly flawed characters, even if once again their arc is somewhat limited. Nicole Kidman feels somewhat miscast in this role, since for all her efforts, she can't quite evade the "I'm Nicole Kidman playing a role" syndrome, whereas the enormously talented Javier Bardem, simply feels lost in a role where he has very little to do. The sprawling supporting cast, while illustrative fails to create much of a mark, since their onscreen time is so limited, which includes Tony Hale, Alia Shawkat and Clark Gregg. The production team is a solid one, with the beautiful cinematography from the wonderful Jeff Cronenweth, score from Daniel Pemberton and production design from Jon Hutman. While not a terrible feature, it fails to properly register or for that matter, truly capture the varied dimension of such iconic performers.