Being the Ricardos
Starring Nicole Kidman, Javier Bardem, JK Simmons, Nina Arianda
“Being the Ricardos” almost had a casting issue. After Cate Blanchett dropped out of playing Lucille Ball, fellow Aussie Nicole Kidman stepped in. If you go into Sorkin’s flick with the understanding that Kidman isn’t trying to embody Ball, everything makes more sense. In fact, you could totally ignore who Kidman and Bardem are playing and the film, about the industry, would work just as well.
Sorkin’s screenplay is strong as he takes a behind-the-scenes look at the politics, controversy, stress and ambition of these two actors who faced a tumultuous week while filming their hit television show. To understand the impressiveness of Kidman’s performance, you have to see Ball outside of “I Love Lucy.” Bardem nails the charisma of Desi Arnaz, and both actors, especially in scenes together, ignite the material.
Sorkin’s weakness is in the direction, although it’s better than in “The Trial of the Chicago 7” and “Molly’s Game.” Another detractor in “Being the Ricardos” is the modern-day staged interviews of producers and people from the show looking back; it amounts to nothing more than an unnecessary distraction.
A standout scene between Lucy and co-star Vivian (Nina Arianda), discussing why Ethel can’t be the pretty-sexy one, is an example of the film’s strengths. Lucy explains that Vivian, as Ethel, must represent the housewives watching the show.
It’s the type brutal conversation Sorkin has built a career on and that the actors elevate here. Sorkin uses the pacing of “The West Wing” as a model for this film, always keeping the cast in motion, discussing and having heated meetings.
Kidman & Bardem give rousing performances in a serious drama about Americas funniest TV couple.