Sometimes you can watch a movie and tell that it was made almost entirely to exist as Oscar bait. Of course, you could argue that the majority of non-“popcorn” movies are Oscar hopefuls, and that is probably true, but there are some that seem to be algorhithmically designed to tick off all of the necessary boxes to ensure recognition in Awards Season. So far it seems to be working for Being the Ricardos, though Academy Award nominations aren’t announced for a couple more weeks, so we don’t know exactly how well. The bigger question though is whether or not it actually deserves the adulation.
Writer / director Aaron Sorkin’s film largely focuses in on one very eventful week of making the I Love Lucy show. As the cast and crew gather for their first table read of the next episode, Lucille Ball (Nicole Kidman) is distraught over a newspaper story alleging that her husband Desi Arnaz (Javier Bardem) was caught fooling around with another woman. Even worse was another story insinuating that she was a Communist, which would have certainly ended her career at the time. So she tries to focus instead on making the next episode as perfect as it can be, with little regard for the feelings of her coworkers. This is all intercut with flashbacks to how Lucy and Desi first met, their early married life, and the events that led to the creation of their hit show.
Sorkin’s directorial style is somewhat flat and gives the whole thing the feel of an extended television pilot, a sense that is supported by the equally ordinary script. A lot of the bite of his best work is absent here, and the decision to have older versions of the show’s writers and executive producer appear in talking head interviews just feels odd and frequently breaks up any momentum the story builds to. The cast all do excellent work, with Kidman and Bardem giving it their all, but those 2 performances are somewhat marred by how little they look like the people they are portraying. The amount of make-up used to try and make Nicole look like Lucy can be particularly jarring at times. It’s otherwise well made however, with a story that’s hard not to get wrapped up in and an ending that is particularly affecting. I personally wouldn’t give it an Oscar, but it is worth a watch. ★★★
Rated R for language.
★★★★★ = Excellent | ★★★★ = Very Good | ★★★ = Good | ★★ = Fair | ★ = Poor