Being the Ricardos (2021)

being the ricardos poster 2021 movie
7.5 Overall Score
Story: 6/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 8/10

Great performances, recreations

Fictionalized, just feels like Oscar bait, not enough heart

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Being the Ricardos

Studio:  Amazon Studios/Escape Artists/Big Indie Pictures

Genre(s):  Drama

Release Date(s):  December 2, 2021 (Premiere)/December 10, 2021 (US)

MPAA Rating:  R

being the ricardos nicole kidman lucielle ball grape stomping

Nice recreations and performances…but that doesn’t give a movie heart

Lucille Ball (Nicole Kidman) is having a rough week.  A story that she could be tied to the House of Un-American Activities Committee might have her labeled as a communist, she’s just discovered she’s pregnant which the network won’t allow, rumors of Desi (Javier Bardem) cheating on her is in the tabloids, and to top it all off “Fred and Ethel Fight” episode isn’t going well.  Lucy is trying to hold it all together, but her relationship between Desi, her frustrated producers, and her costars Vivian Vance (Nina Arianda) and William Frawley (J.K. Simmons) are fragile…but the world loves Lucy.

Written and directed by Aaron Sorkin, Being the Ricardos is a biopic drama.  The film follows a week in the life of Lucille Ball (August 6, 1911-April 26, 1989) and Desi Arnaz (March 2, 1917-December 2, 1986) in 1953.  The film was produced by Amazon Studios and after a short theater run was released on Amazon Prime.  It received Academy Award nominations for Best Actress (Kidman), Best Actor (Bardem), and Best Supporting Actor (J.K. Simmons).

This is the type of movie that I can’t get excited about.  The biographical picture genre feels very played out and much of the movies just come down to casting and imitating actors they are portraying.  Being the Ricardos is gifted with a nice tightly crafted script but does fall into many of the biopic traps.

being the ricardos nicole kidman lucy jk simmons nina ariande dinner scene

The table scene must be perfect

The first thing to remember is that Being the Ricardos isn’t a true account of the events.  Much of the tone and aspects of the story were true, but the pacing and even the story settings are sped up for the “one-week” construction of the film.  Even the film’s tedious bracketed narration is a construct with actors playing the former I Love Lucy coworkers even though they have all passed…making the movie set in the 1980s?  While these are largely obvious changes (including the ending sequence at the taping), it still is presented as “the truth” which is part of the biopic problem.

The real stars of Being the Ricardos is the performances (like it often is in the biographical pictures).  Nicole Kidman never seemed like Lucille Ball before this but she does fall into the performance like a pro.  Javier Bardem is less like Desi Arnaz, but he does still give a strong performance.  While J.K. Simmons (rightfully) received praise as William Frawley, Nina Arianda is a strong Vivian Vance.  The film features Tony Hale and a reunion with his Arrested Development costar Alia Shawkat (played by Linda Lavin as her older self), Clark Gregg, and Ronny Cox among others.

being the ricardos desi arnaz cheating lipstick lucille ball nicole kidman javier bardem

…and you failed

The movie does do a good job capturing the look and feel of the series with the movie.  It also recreates some famous Lucy scenes (like the grape stomping episodes), and those recreations are great looking.  Even though the script is smart, it feels like it needs more substance than just the actors and visuals.

Being the Ricardos is as you’d expect it to be.  It feels like an “Oscar grab” type movie, and it is.  That means it is good, but it seems to lack some of the heart that other films might possess.  The basic concept of the movie is that Lucy was juggling a lot of things, but it all boils down to her relationship with Desi…but it feels like that never is quite reached.  Is it disingenuous to have a goal when making a movie?  Movies like Being the Ricardos which feel less like telling a story and more like going for gold make you question that.

Related Links:

The 94th Academy Award Nominations

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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