Kidman, Bardem shine in Sorkin’s Being the Ricardos

Aaron Sorkin is a gifted storyteller. He’s a screenwriter noted for dialogue that is strong, witty and rhythmic. While Being the Ricardos might not be one of his strongest pieces of cinema, it nonetheless offers solid entertainment propelled by the powerhouses that are Nicole Kidman, Javier Bardem, and J.K. Simmons.

This is the story of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz that takes place in one week while I Love Lucy was at its height of popularity. The story also cuts to flashbacks of Ball and Arnaz, as well as to contemporary interviews with the now-older writers from the show.

Kidman and Bardem star as golden-age TV’s favourite on and off-screen couple, Lucy and Desi. During this one week, we become privy to the personal and public affairs of the couple. Lucy’s (alleged) connection to the Communist Party is announced on the radio and they have to strategize a response. With her career on the line, her marriage is also rocky as Lucy doubts Desi’s loyalty as rumours of an affair breaks in the tabloids.

Furthermore, Lucy is pregnant and the show’s execs at CBS, and the sponsor Philip Morris, won’t let her pregnancy be integrated in the show and she is expected to hide it. Never mind that they didn’t approve her on-screen Cuban-American husband in the first place. Being the Ricardos explores Hollywood misogyny and racism sensitively, among many other issues.

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Kidman delicately toes the lines between Lucy’s on screen persona, who has incredible comic timing and her off-screen persona, and is pretty hands-on about every little detail, refusing to compromise on anything. She knows the physical comedy world inside and out, but has to constantly contend with writers who believe they know better.

Bardem sashays like a pro, fully dancing with the dialogue and making the Cuban husband act a delight. He’s clearly enjoying the role, never overshadowing Kidman, but always a commanding presence.

It’s also satisfying to see Tony Hale, Alia Shawkat and Jake Lacy as the three scribes in the writers room who try desperately to juggle the demands of Lucy and the higher ups amid constant disruptions. Sorkin knows where the joke lies, and this cast easily pulls it off.

J.K. Simmons, meanwhile, is brilliant—true to form, he makes his presence known even in his supporting roles. He gives enough and that’s just the taste that audience need when there’s an ensemble cast.

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Sorkin’s screwball dialogue—the familiar quick and witty banter that you know you’ll get from a Sorkin film—run the gamut and are a constant source of amusement as the actors never falter and excel at delivery.

The scene where he gets inside Lucy’s head with black-and-white segments as she imagines the narrative is quite a thrilling feat with a nod to I Love Lucy‘s heyday. However, the script does get too dense, focusing on several issues at once that Lucy and Desi are facing – which can at times prove disorientating.

Overall, the complex yet entertaining film is worthy of the award season nominations they received from the Academy this week, especially for Kidman, Bardem and Simmons. From Sorkin, it’s a compelling film but not as good as strong as his previous entries.

Being the Ricardos is now on Amazon Prime.

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