Nicole Kidman and Javier Bardem play the 1950’s most iconic television and real-life couple in this Aaron Sorkin-helmed film about a week in the making of the decade’s most popular show.
The night before taping of the latest episode of I Love Lucy is to begin, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz get the shock of a lifetime. Lucille learns that she has been outed as a Communist. The network brass at CBS are not happy and when Desi tries to quell the situation by saying Lucille checked the wrong box, she is livid. She confessed it was her grandfather who convinced her to check the box and has no intention of recanting it. However, the couple soon come up with an idea that could steer away from the news.
When Lucille is revealed to be pregnant, Desi decides to have Lucy Ricardo pregnant on the show and to give birth on the show. This led the CBS brass to force Desi to change things on the show. Desi, convinced in his ways, decides to go above CBS and go to the parent company to convince them to let the pregnancy happen on the show. Meanwhile, Lucille begins to feel something is off with not only the show, but something on a personal level. Will Lucille and Desi be able to get out of their jams to make the show a continued success?
From director Aaron Sorkin comes a more dramatic take on life behind the set of popular television show. While we have had unauthorized stories about shows like Three’s Company, Charlie’s Angels, Saved by the Bell, and Full House, this one is perhaps in a way authorized because executive producing this film are none other than Lucie Arnaz and Desi Arnaz Jr., the son and daughter of legends Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, who divorced after the final taping of I Love Lucy.
While the concept was really good as the film is seen through the eyes of producer Jess Oppenheimer and writers Madelyn Pugh and Bob Carroll, the problem comes in miscasting for the lead roles. Yes, it is hard to say but it felt like the only reason why the two leads were cast was to add big names. That doesn’t mean that Nicole Kidman as Ball and Javier Bardem as Arnaz didn’t try their best. However, it just didn’t feel right. It was like if Sorkin took a page out of the Lifetime Saved by the Bell movie and mixed up some good casting and bad miscasting, in this case, the two leads of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz.
If there is anyone who looks like their counterpart it is Nina Arianda’s take on Vivian Vance, who feels she gained too much weight and goes on a diet, with Lucille either worried about her health or seeing if she would outstage Lucy in terms of looks. While he doesn’t exactly look the part of William Frawley, J.K. Simmons shows why he is one of those amazing actors who play some sort of mentor. At the height of the film’s downfall, we see William and Lucille have a drink in a bar and offers her some advice that seem to resonate with her well. Alia Shawkat, Tony Hale, and Jake Lacy round it out well as the roles of the young Pugh, Oppenheimer, and Carroll with Linda Lavin, John Rubenstein, and Ronny Cox as their present day versions.
Being the Ricardos isn’t exactly a bad film, but had they had better casting in terms of certain roles, it would have been something more stellar. But overall, not a bad movie.
WFG RATING: B-
An Amazon Studios production. Director: Aaron Sorkin. Producers: Todd Black, Jason Blumenthal, and Steve Tisch. Writer: Aaron Sorkin. Cinematography: Jeff Cronenweth. Editing: Alan Baumgarten.
Cast: Nicole Kidman, Javier Bardem, J.K. Simmons, Nina Arianda, Tony Hale, Alia Shawkat, Tony Hale, Jake Lacy, Clark Gregg, Linda Lavin, John Rubenstein, Ronny Cox.