REVIEW: Biopic ‘Being the Ricardos’ drops the Ball

It’s easy to love “I Love Lucy.” But that’s not the case with “Being the Ricardos.”

The film stars Nicole Kidman, who portrays Lucille Ball, the actress well known for the series “I Love Lucy.” The movie picks up during a week of filming the “I Love Lucy” show, where the production has been impacted by some recent news.

Rumors are swirling around Hollywood about Ball possibly being associated with communism during the height of the Red Scare. The film follows how this affects production, and Ball’s marriage to her husband, Desi Arnaz (Javier Bardem).

“Being the Ricardos” is an interesting, but incoherent look at Ball’s life and career. The movie is trying to tackle a lot of things, from her relationship with Arnaz, to her talent as comedian and how she was wrongly pursued during the Red Scare.

However, the execution on all of this is rather poor. For example, the matter of Ball’s connection with the communist party, and Arnaz’s opinion on it, feels like it’s dropped for a lot of the movie, despite having a lot of intrigue. Then, after having limited time related to the subject, it ends up basically having a big impact on the movie’s climax.

While the Red Scare issue is sidelined, the movie bounces back and forth from Ball’s early days in the industry, to her current work on the set of “I Love Lucy.” So, at times it seems like it’s trying to be a biopic about how she get started, at others, the film is a showcase of how she was on set, and then there are moments that seem to dig into her own political views.

ricardosBlog
Courtesy Amazon Studios.

The result is a muddled picture that is trying to say a lot, but ends up not saying much because of how things are rolled out. It’s surprising, because Aaron Sorkin is proven as a capable writer, yet his latest effort in “Ricardos” feels messy, without a main theme.

The film also boasts an odd framing device that is completely unnecessary. Spliced in the movie are interviews with cast and crew members of the “I Love Lucy” show that don’t add anything more to the film than what’s already being said in the main scenes.

Despite its flaws, though, there are bright spots. As previously said, Sorkin has writing abilities and it shines in certain scenes. For example, sequences where Ball is stopping shoots because she wants to correct a scene or add to it is compelling stuff to watch.

Moments like these get across how hard she worked on the show and her ability as a clever, sharp comedian with a vision. Kidman, an Academy Award winner, is also superb as the famous actress, being able to recreate scenes from the show and giving a layered performance as Ball in her personal life.

Bardem, an Oscar nominee, also lends a strong, dramatic performance. While Arnaz was an immigrant from Cuba, he was also through and through a proud American. He was a person who wanted to support his wife but also had his own personal flaws that caused stress on the marriage. Bardem makes it all work quite nicely, making Arnaz himself and his relationship with Ball convincing on screen.

Unfortunately, this remains a situation where a film has things working for it, but it never comes together in a satisfying way. This includes an ending that’s not only rushed, but has a moment that seems completely out of place and muddies the waters of what the film is trying to say. 2.5 out of 5.

Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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