Being The Ricardos may try its best but the new film–written and directed by Aaron Sorkin–contains a host of problems.
First and foremost, Javier Bardem is from Spain, not Cuba. To have better representation, the actor playing Desi Arnaz should be from Cuba. Depending on who you speak with, this is potentially a major problem. Sorkin’s opinion on the matter–see interview link below–is that “Spanish and Cuban aren’t actable.” He believes that the same also applies to his feelings on gay and straight. Not everyone agrees when it comes to casting but for what it’s worth, Lucie Arnaz approves of Bardem’s casting. Think of it this way: it’s almost like casting an Ashkenazi Jew for the role of a Sephardic Jew or vice versa.
Two, writer-director Aaron Sorkin places three different events in the same week. But did they take place during the same week? Let me break it down for you:
- The Walter Winchell accusation about Lucille Ball being a Communist took place on September 6, 1953. This accusation is what kicks off the events in the film.
- Lucille’s second pregnancy: Desi Arnaz Jr. was born on January 19, 1953. This places the pregnancy announcement at some point in July 1952.
- Desi’s cheating scandal in Confidential: The magazine was considered to be the National Enquirer of the 1950s. Yes, they did run an article about Desi cheating on Lucy. The film implies the photo was from six months ago but the truth is that the affair happened many years before. The article also ran as the cover story of the January 1955 issue according to Vanity Fair.
Listen, I’m all for biopics when they are good but it’s clear that Aaron Sorkin does not know what he’s doing here. Making matters worse, per an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, is that the film is set in September 1952! One full year before shit hits the fan! There’s no denial that Lucy and Desi had their marital problems. No is there any doubt about their complex relationship between their private and professional lives. However, Sorkin combines too many incidents in telling this story. I love going behind the scenes of TV and film but Being the Ricardos does this the wrong way.
These issues not withstanding, I think Nicole Kidman does a fine job. I can certainly understand why people prefer Debra Messing. If the film were focusing on Ball’s comedy antics, Messing would probably be a better choice. She would be amazing in the role. However, this film puts the bigger focus on taking us behind the scenes. In fact, Sorkin didn’t want a vocal or physical impersonation from anyone in the cast! Through Ball’s dialogue, we get a hint of Ball’s comedy genius. We also learn that she is not a fan of Donald Glass. One more thing: Donald Glass does not appear to direct a single episode of I Love Lucy according to IMDb.
One approach that Sorkin takes is certainly interesting. He weaves in interviews with Jess Oppenheimer, Madelyn Pugh, and Bob Carroll Jr. I assumed they were archival interviews but they are not so I really don’t like this aspect of the film. Tony Hale, Alia Shawkat, and Jake Lacy portray them, respectively. J.K. Simmons and Nina Arianda round out the cast as I Love Lucy castmates William Frawley and Vivian Vance.
There’s a better way to glimpse into Lucy and Desi’s life but Being the Ricardos isn’t it.
DIRECTOR/SCREENWRITER: Aaron Sorkin
CAST: Nicole Kidman, Javier Bardem, Jake Lacy, J.K. Simmons, Nina Arianda, Tony Hale, and Alia Shawkat
Amazon Studios releases Being The Ricardos in theaters on December 10, 2021 and globally on Prime Video starting December 21, 2021.
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