In the picture

January 30, 2022

Despite a few intriguing elements, the inconsistent Being the Ricardos doesn’t quite capture the appeal of its fascinating subjects.

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Being the Ricardos☆☆☆

Staring: Nicole Kidman, Javier Bardem, J. K. Simmons, Nina Arianda, Tony Hale, Alia Shawkat, Jake Lacy, and Clark Gregg Written and directed by: Aaron Sorkin

When it was announced that Nicole Kidman had been cast to play Lucille Ball in a biographical drama, not everyone was terribly convinced the Australian actress was the best choice to portray the iconic comedienne. Some would have preferred that Cate Blanchett – who was originally announced as the lead of the film – hadn’t dropped out of the project, while fans of Debra Messing were disappointed the Will & Grace star had not been chosen to essay the role. But as Kidman’s Best Actress win at the Golden Globes earlier this month proves, even when she isn’t the perfect fit for a role, the actress still delivers a top-notch performance.

Because yes, she is a tad miscast in Being the Ricardos, but her solid performance and commitment to the part still make her a highlight of this otherwise uneven endeavour.

Written and directed by Aaron Sorkin, the film attempts to dissect both the private and professional lives of Lucille Ball and her husband Desi Arnaz as they try to keep their careers and marriage afloat in the face of several issues.

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The events are centred on preparations for a live taping of I Love Lucy over the course of a chaotic week in 1952. The primary story lines find Lucy being publicly deemed a communist, Desi being the subject of a tabloid story that alleges he has been cheating on his wife, and the couple expecting their second child and demanding that Lucy’s pregnancy be written into the show.

All these arcs are based on real events, but ones that actually unfolded over a period of years. In condensing them to a week, Sorkin finds himself tossing more balls than he can effectively juggle. Between these events as well as flashbacks of the couple’s past and faux documentary-style interviews with their show’s lead writers, there is too much going on, and it does not come together seamlessly here. Sorkin’s take is uneven; as a result, some of these elements – like the backstage tensions – make for more intriguing drama than others.

 The supporting parts – J.K. Simmons as William Frawley and Nina Arianda as Vivian Vance, in particular – are also better cast than the principals. Despite a fine performance, Kidman isn’t always convincing as the iconic Lucy, and as charming as he may be, the Spanish Bardem isn’t really the best choice for portraying the Cuban-American Arnaz.

All in all, Being the Ricardos has some interesting elements and always remains watchable, but there isn’t enough sharpness, wit, or spark to make it entirely memorable or particularly effective. The film ultimately leaves you with the sense that its subjects’ lives could have been turned into a far more riveting biopic than this.

Rating system: *Not on your life * ½ If you really must waste your time ** Hardly worth the bother ** ½ Okay for a slow afternoon only *** Good enough for a look see *** ½ Recommended viewing **** Don’t miss it **** ½ Almost perfect ***** Perfection

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