It’s a fractious week on the set of hit sitcom ‘I Love Lucy’ as star of the show Lucille Ball (Nicole Kidman) has been accused of being a Communist. As a team of writers and producers work to iron out the mess and pen a new episode, Lucille reflects on her time on the show, as well as her career and relationship with Desi Arnaz (Javier Bardem).
The casting of Nicole Kidman in the role of Lucille Ball was met with something of an online backlash when it was announced. Javier Bardem also received some criticism for taking on the role of Cuban-American Desi Arnaz when he is from Spain. Bardem turns in a solid performance as the “I” of ‘I Love Lucy’, leaning much into the showmanship and fragility of Desi. Opposite him, Kidman gives us a fiery, quick-witted, brilliant Lucille (and a naïve, idealistic younger version of the actress in flashbacks). The cast – who also include ‘Arrested Development’ stars Tony Hale and Alia Shawkat, and an intriguing Vivian Lance – is the least of the problems of ‘Being the Ricardos’.
None can deny the writing talent of Aaron Sorkin, but in this latest directorial effort, the script is uneven. The delivery of dialogue is all very snappy and “showbiz” in its pacing, with sharp back and forths between cast and crew ruling the day, and yet the turn of events fail to be all that interesting or evocative. The whole push and pull between Lucille and Desi comes across as forced, and the debates around whether or not to show Lucille’s pregnancy on the show, eating disorders, and about Desi’s Cuban origins, never make for as gripping conflict as they should. Everything feels rushed and like a box ticking exercise of what revolutionary moments of ‘I Love Lucy’ to include. The resulting feature feels cool and flat.
There’s some glamour and hope in the flashbacks to the early days of Lucille and Desi’s relationship. But like ‘Stan and Ollie’, the old school sense of humour to ‘I Love Lucy’ meshed with contemporary tension and drama never quite works. There’s an awful lot of talking with not much happening, and fans of the original ‘I Love Lucy’ will likely be left the most underwhelmed.
'Being the Ricardos' is streaming on Amazon Prime now.