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I grew up watching the wildly popular sitcom, “I Love Lucy”. If you are a child of the 50s or 60s, you are familiar with the half hour comedy that originally aired from 1951 until 1957. Although the series ran before my birth, it continued on in syndication for many, many years.
I Love Lucy captured the hearts of Americans, ranking as the most popular show on television for four of its six seasons. The series won five Emmy Awards including Best Situation Comedy and Best Actress for Lucille Ball.
Honestly, over the top comedy is not my favorite genre. And make no mistake…I Love Lucy was over the top, physical, slap stick style comedy. However, I watched it anyway, falling in love with Ricky from Cuba and his unpredictable wife, Lucy, who always seemed to land in a spot of trouble.
When I saw the previews for Being the Ricardos, I was instantly intrigued. Here is my movie review.
Being the Ricardos Cast
Being the Ricardos stars Nicole Kidman, Javier Bardem, JK Simmons, Nina Arianda, Tony Hale, Madelyn Pugh and Jake Lacy. Aaron Sorkin wrote the screenplay and directed the biographical drama. This Amazon Studios film carries an R rating, for mild profanity, alcohol use and smoking, and has a run time of 2 hours and 11 minutes.
Oscar nominations were announced this morning. Being the Ricardos picked up three nominations: Best Actor for Javier Bardem, Best Actress for Nicole Kidman and Best Supporting Actor for JK Simmons.
A Week with the Ricardos
The film unfolds in 1953, during a week in the lives of Desi Arnaz (Bardem) and Lucille Ball (Kidman). The successful couple faces challenges that could upend their careers and their marriage.
Lucy a Communist?
During the week time line in the film, the Los Angeles Herald-Express runs the shocking headline, “Lucille Ball was RED in 1936”. The story poses a real threat to Lucy’s career and Desi’s as well, through his association with her.
Lucy and Desi meet with the show’s producers and network executives, in an attempt to control the potential damage. Lucy did register to vote in 1936 and listed an affiliation with the Communist Party, primarily to appease her socialist grandfather. She supposedly never achieved active member status. And she appeared before the House’s Un-American Activities Committee and was cleared. That doesn’t stop the newspaper from releasing the article.
Desi first wants Lucy to state that she simply checked the wrong box. When she’s uncomfortable with that fib, Desi decides to meet the accusation head on, with the backing of the network. The tension mounts all week, as the cast and crew head toward the taping of the episode “Fred and Ethel Fight” before a live audience. The response of the audience likely foretells the response of the rest of the country and decides the fate of the show.
Lucy Is Pregnant
While smoothing over Lucy’s Red Scare, the Ricardos surprise the executives and writers with an announcement: Lucy is expecting a baby. The couple already parent a young daughter, Lucie. The news of this second pregnancy is not welcomed by the executives or the story writers, Jess (Hale), Alia (Pugh) and Bob (Lacy).
In the 1950s the word “pregnancy” cannot even be spoken on a television show. The show writers scramble to come up with ways to hide Lucy’s pregnancy behind props and carefully planned camera shots. To their dismay, Desi proposes a different idea…make the pregnancy part of the show.
Desi and Lucy stand united in making their personal story Lucy and Ricky’s story as well. And Desi is willing to take his demands to the top studio executives.
Is Desi Cheating?
During a week already fraught with challenges arises one that does more than threaten careers or the television show. A tabloid photo of Desi with another woman threatens the couple’s marriage.
Although it turns out that the photo is an old one, taken at an event with both Lucy and Desi in attendance, old insecurities trouble America’s favorite red head. Desi often comes home late, after performing with his band. Or he does not come home at all. Desi and Lucy rarely spend time together, other than on set or at the Desilu Productions Company they co-own.
Lucy turns to her co-stars, William Frawley (Simmons), who plays grouchy Fred in the series and Vivian Vance (Arianda), who portrays Ethel. Although Frawley drinks too much, and takes delight in arguing with Vivian, he cares about Lucy and Desi. And a tendency to compete with her co-star aside, Vivian is Lucy’s friend. “Help me save my marriage,” Lucy quietly pleads to them.
All three challenges come to a head at the end of the week as an audience gathers for the filming of the I Love Lucy episode, Fred and Ethel Fight.
My Thoughts on Being the Ricardos
This beautifully created documentary style film gives an emotional peek behind the scenes of I Love Lucy…and into the lives of its two stars.
I felt like I learned new things about both Desi and Lucy. She is portrayed, accurately so, as brilliant, creative and a perfectionist in her work. There’s a huge difference between Lucy in the show…and Lucille Ball. Her style of kinesthetic comedy provides the slap stick humor that made the show so appealing to viewers. Lucille however is more quiet, intentional, introspective and demanding of herself and others than her tv counterpart. I can appreciate the woman behind one of the most successful series of all times.
And Desi truly is the one with the drive, passion and knowledge to bring the show and technology into new territory. Bardem and Kidman superbly step into their roles and deserve their Oscar nominations.
I appreciate too, the deeper glimpses into Frawley and Vance. I knew they did not exactly like each other, on set. However, their support of Lucy and Desi is endearing.
I loved too seeing the process of scenes coming together that I remember from my childhood.
Perhaps the most poignant part of this movie, for me, is Lucy’s desire to have a home. A traumatic childhood and years of struggling as a B movie actress create a deep longing for a happy oasis where she and Desi can raise their family and insulate themselves from the world.
That desire shapes all that Lucy does…even to insisting on doing I Love Lucy with her real life husband rather than a more well known actor. I confess to teary eyes when Lucy finally realizes where home truly exists and the cost of maintaining it.
See this movie, if you grew up watching I Love Lucy. It’s currently playing on Amazon Prime, free for Prime members. Click LINK for film. I’d love to know your thoughts about it!
Check out my movie review of The Power of the Dog. It picked up 12 Oscar nominations.
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