At the height of its popularity in the 1950s, the sitcom I Love Lucy kept some 60 million Americans glued to their television sets. Businesses closed on Monday evening, knowing that no one would come during the weekly broadcast. To quote the star in the biographical drama Being the Ricardos (VO stf), it was then “the main asset of the CBS network”. Nicole Kidman’s assurance when she utters this line is perfect, like her composition, which is like a metamorphosis.
In doing so, the star may have just muddied the waters in the Oscar category for best actress, where potential candidates are already jostling. Naive on the small screen, Lucille Ball was in life quite the opposite. In that regard, the film written and directed by Aaron Sorkin never performs as well as when it shows how Lucille Ball was consistently ahead of her time, whether in her very outspoken manner of initiating an affair with her future husband. Desi Arnaz (in a flashback), to impose their bicultural couple on the broadcaster, or in the way she takes control of the staging of an episode when she finds herself the butt of the humorous carelessness of a director.
Moreover, the film is as much a look behind the scenes of the production as towards those of the marriage of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, she Hollywood actress of series B started from nothing, him Cuban refugee in love with the lady and the United States .
For dramatic and comedic purposes, Sorkin has focused the action into a single week – but what a week! – during which nothing goes for the show and for the couple (note that the title of the film refers to the names of the characters that Lucille and Desi played in I Love Lucy, i.e. Lucy and Ricky Ricardo).
Most of the events mentioned, from accusations of communism leveled against Lucille to her pregnancy that she and Desi fought to integrate into the frame of the show (never seen at the time) through the headlines referring to Desi’s infidelities, are true, but not all of them happened during this time.
In terms of factual rigor, Hollywood has done worse and, more importantly, Sorkin’s narrative challenge pays off. Even the handle of rollbacks integrates organically into the whole.
Without surprise, Being the Ricardos is full of these biting, incisive, even furiously funny dialogues, of which the screenwriter ofA Few Good Men (Men of honor), The American President (An american president) and The Social Network (Social network) has the secret. He who sometimes has the complacent verve, especially when he educates or pontificates through the mouths of his characters, he maintains a fine balance here.
The exchanges flow, lively, but never at the expense of a loaded intrigue. Another positive point: in the role of Desi, Javier Bardem is formidable, in addition to sharing a hot chemistry with Nicole Kidman.
The Alia Shawkat, as a pioneer screenwriter, JK Simmons, as a vaudeville actor who has seen others, and Nina Arianda, as an actress whose role of stooge begins to weigh, are also up to the task.
Where it gets stuck, and the downside is size, it is at the level of the realization. Sorkin is on his third after Molly’s Game (Molly’s game) and The Trial of the Chicago 7 (Chicago Seven), and until now, it is clear that his scripts are better served by other directors than himself (Rob Reiner, David Fincher, Mike Nichols, Bennett Miller, Danny Boyle…).
The film is technically quite correct, there are even a handful of very pretty compositions (ah, when the huge studio doors open…).
The retro photography direction of Jeff Cronenweth (Fight Club) is also splendid. However, in terms of movement and language, one has more the impression of being in front of luxurious TV than of the cinema.
Which is perhaps not worse at the bottom: distributed by Amazon Studios, the film certainly benefited from a brief theatrical release in the United States, but it is on the Prime platform that the majority will see it.