One of the films that Amazon Studios is pushing this awards season is Aaron Sorkin’s Being the Ricardos which follows a week in the life of TV superstar Lucille Ball (Nicole Kidman) and her husband, Desi Arnaz (Javier Bardem) in which the former is accused of being a member of the Communist party and has to wait to see how the media portrays this which in turn could threaten to kill her career. This biopic weaves in and out of the studio as Ball has to balance dealing with her professional and personal life from the domestic dynamics with her husband to the business meetings with studio heads and legal teams as they plan for the turbulent week ahead. Despite covering a short period of time, Sorkin is able to cover a wide emotional spectrum and brings one of television’s brightest stars to life in this whimsical drama that harkens back to the golden age of film and television.
The film marks Aaron Sorkin’s third directorial effort and he naturally provides the script as well. The script follows an intense week as it has emerged that Lucille filled a form stating she was a Communist decades before which the media has managed to get ahold of. During this week, we see Lucille grapple with the possibility that her career may end as well as the news emerging that she is pregnant while also having to deal with one of the most iconic episodes of her TV show. All of this chaos weaves together to create a tapestry of Lucille’s life in a way that we are able to get a clear view of who she is without feeling overwhelmed by the script.
Nicole Kidman has been experiencing somewhat of a resurgence in recent years, although it could easily be argued that she never really went anywhere at all and has always pulled out great performance after great performance. Her turn as Lucille Ball, however, is among her best performances as she inhabits Ball’s mannerisms and quick wit. From beginning to end, Kidman is dedicated to the character and we experience the struggle Ball faces from within the male-dominated industry and those in the media who threaten to end her career when it is unveiled that she once ticked a box as “Communist” when she was younger. Undoubtedly, Kidman will be receiving a lot of awards attention and it is well-deserved as she is absolutely gripping and does a fantastic job when reenacting filming the scenes from I Love Lucy. Kidman’s performance is strong and commanding and her presence is felt in the moments that she is not which proves the strength of the character and Kidman’s interpretation.
Paired with Kidman is none other than Javier Bardem who plays Lucille Ball’s husband, costar, and producer, Desi Arnaz and he proves himself as the perfect choice to play alongside Kidman’s powerhouse performance. While Kidman has deservedly been receiving an abundance of praise for her performance, Bardem’s turn as Arnaz shouldn’t be forgotten either. His performance is electric and he brings out a career-best since his Oscar-winning turn in No Country For Old Men. Bardem has always proved that he can act in a variety of different genres with ease and playing someone as iconic as Desi Arnaz could have been extremely challenging for any other actor but not Bardem. We get to see Arnaz in his element as he performs in the bars but this is then contrasted with the stresses he faces at work and the reality that he lives in a world that expects the husband to be the provider and the head of the family and yet Lucille seems to be the headliner and more popular than he is. Bardem’s chemistry with Kidman is fantastic and they work well at showing the ups and downs of a very public marriage.
As expected from any Sorkin project, this film has a strong supporting cast and J. K. Simmons, in particular, provides one of the most heartwarming and funny performances that are among some of the film’s highlights despite him having a limited amount of time onscreen. Simmons plays Ball and Arnaz’s I Love Lucy costar, William Frawley, who has spent decades in the industry and has experienced the ups and downs that come with it. Simmons’ portrayal of Frawley is one of sentiment and sadness as he has an awareness of his own drinking problem while also advising Lucille on how to make life easier for both herself and Desi. What makes Simmons such a brilliant actor is his ability to tap into a character’s psyche and really bring out a rawness and depth that is not often seen but even with a small role, the performance makes such a huge impact on the film’s dynamic as well as proving to be integral to the script.
Another highlight of the film is its score which is provided by Daniel Pemberton who has quickly established himself as a brilliant composer and has worked on a wide variety of films. His score for Being the Ricardos feels classical and nostalgic while also providing undertones of thrillers as Pemberton plays on Ball’s ongoing struggles and the looming threat that her career may be coming to an end. The scenes in which Lucille and Desi argue amongst themselves are undercut by ominous and threatening strings that bring plenty of tension.
Being the Ricardos takes us back to a golden age in television and is filled to the brim with strong performances from the leading and supporting cast. Paired with Sorkin’s innovative direction and beautifully paced script, it is a film that does a great job at capturing the hectic celebrity lifestyle behind the scenes while also showing the delicate balance required in order to stay at the top. As Ball’s career is threatened by a form she filled in decades prior as well as having to deal with misogynists on a regular basis. Kidman is undoubtedly the star of the show and proves yet again why she is one of the best living actresses thanks to her fearless approach to the character and her ability to capture every aspect of Lucille’s personality.
What did you think of Being the Ricardos? Let me know in the comments below!
Being the Ricardos is available to watch on Amazon Prime!