If you’re a fan of the 1950s television sitcom “I Love Lucy” and rank Lucille Ball as one of your favorite funny people, then you’ll want to check out the new movie Being the Ricardos. I was lucky to receive a screener to preview. The film is now available in theaters and also on Amazon Prime.
Behind-the-scenes of one production week
The drama takes place over the course of one production week of “I Love Lucy,” from a Monday table read through Friday audience taping. During the story Lucy and Desi are threatened by shocking personal accusations, a political smear and cultural taboos.
Oscar winners Nicole Kidman plays Lucille Ball and Javier Bardem plays Desi Arnaz. The Ricardos’ neighbors and landlords, Fred and Ethel Mertz, also appear prominently in the movie, played respectively by actors J.K. Simmons and Nina Arianda.
Throughout the different scenes you get a glimpse of the couple’s complex romantic and professional relationship. The brilliant screenwriter and director Aaron Sorkin allows you into the writers’ room, onto the soundstage and behind closed doors with Lucy and Desi.
As the story builds, you see what a smart and strong comedian Lucille Ball is, not just a silly candy-eating, grape-stomping gal. For Desi, it appears that he had quite a visionary business acumen as well. It’s said that the duo created a brand new paradigm for television production as they transformed themselves from B-movie contract players to the founders of the world’s top independent TV production company, Desilu Productions.
Based on the stats, 60 million viewers tuned into “I Love Lucy” each week on Mondays from 9 – 9:30 p.m. Can you imagine that just showing or talking about Lucy’s pregnancy meant a big risk in those days? Today everything is on view, including live births.
Close your eyes and you’ll think you’re listening to Lucy
Nicole Kidman does an amazing job portraying Lucille Ball and her character Lucy. When I was watching the movie I closed my eyes and thought I was being transported back to my childhood. I thought Lucy was in the room.
According to the press materials: Three months before the start of production, Kidman began working with a vocal coach as well as a physical movement specialist for her roles as both Ball and the character that made her a star. The coach helped Kidman develop Ball’s naturally low-pitched speaking voice and the unmistakable higher register of Lucy Ricardo. “The vocal aspect was kind of a high-wire act,” Kidman says. “She was a heavy smoker and her voice was deeper and raspier naturally.”
When she plays Ball, the actress not only sounds completely different she also carries herself differently than she does when she is portraying Ball as Lucy. “When I first signed on, I said to Aaron, okay let’s get the prosthetics and the wigs. And Aaron said no, no, no — that’s not what we’re doing. You’ll have the red hair but I am not interested in creating a facsimile. No prosthetic nose, no prosthetic chin. Kidman begged: ‘Maybe just a little nose?’ But, as he told me, he was interested in seeing Lucille’s humanity and in the storytelling, not in a visual recreation.
“What we arrived at eventually is that when I’m Lucy Ricardo, I am as close to a carbon copy as possible,” Kidman continues. “I studied the black-and-white footage endlessly. My makeup and clothing is just like hers. I learned every quirk, every hand gesture. But I always kept in mind that Lucille created Lucy Ricardo. They are not the same person.”
Get some popcorn and take a break to watch Being the Ricardos
If you have some extra relaxation time this week or maybe even New Year’s Eve, take a break, get some popcorn and go watch Being the Ricardos. LMK what you think. I give it a thumbs up and believe Nicole Kidman may have a chance at taking home another Oscar or Golden Globe in 2o22.
I always enjoy your movie reviews! So glad you got a screener to see this one.
But I’ll have to agree to disagree. I’m probably in the minority but I didn’t enjoy this film too much. What I did enjoy were the home movies and interviews of famous people who knew Lucy and Desi, created by Lucie Arnaz and her husband (available on YouTube) that was heartwarming, completely honest, and reflective.
I thought Javier Barden should have gotten more credit for the hard work of sounding exactly like Desi Arnaz. Spanish and Cuban are two different accents. But I thought the characters in the film were more wooden than in real life and that’s really the fault of Sorkin. Again, it’s just my opinion and I know I’m in the minority!
Either way, it’s enjoyable to keep talking about these huge talents (and they were multitalented) that make us still interested in them so many decades later.
Happy and healthy New Year to you! xoxo
Cathy, I did enjoy the movie since I’m a Lucy fan. I would agree with you about Javier. Although I was so drawn into Nicole Kidman who did a fantastic job of articulating Lucy’s accents. So glad she won a Golden Globe for her efforts.