Javier Bardem truly is a versatile and fantastic performer. He can convincingly play a stoic tribal leader like Stilgar in Dune, a psychopath killer like Chigurh and Silva in No Country For Old Men and Skyfall respectively, and now thanks to Being The Ricardos, we can see him as a charming and confident Desi Arnaz. It’s possible that Arnaz isn’t really too far from Bardem’s own personality, but he’s nevertheless electric on screen.
What helps Bardem is the suitably tight script that’s provided to him, and his co-star Nicole Kidman as Lucille Ball, by the ever reliable Aaron Sorkin. The dialogue of Being The Ricardos is intelligent and witty and flows out of all the cast’s mouths like silk. Though the quality of Sorkin’s writing is so recognisable that it’s to the film’s detriment in some ways. There are a few parts that are made up of talking heads of some of the people in the film being interviewed today. All three of these people talk like Aaron Sorkin characters. It’s hard to tell whether these interviews are genuine, but the fact that they talk as if they are in the film, either speaks to how well Sorkin captured the mannerisms of these people, or it shows that Sorkin didn’t trust these people enough to say what he wanted them to say in interviews, so he just wrote what to say for them.
It’s stuff like the intermittent talking heads that adds to a general feeling of confusion of what Being The Ricardos is trying to achieve. The plot takes place over the course of a week during the filming of an episode of I Love Lucy, but you’re often bombarded with flashbacks to Desi and Lucille’s past. It can be a bit confusing when these scenes take place and there’s so many different plot threads going on. The film starts with the crew dealing with the revelation in the press that Lucille Ball has had involvement with the communist party, and it ends with the conclusion of this. Everything in the middle has nothing to do with that and doesn’t contribute anything to it. The movie seemed like it could have been exploring the universal themes of the danger of fake news but instead spends most of its time basically giving a biography of this couple – and biopics of people that worked in Hollywood during the “Golden Era” are very easy to come by, especially when award season is coming up.
Being The Ricardos is a very well acted film with the sharp dialogue you expect from Aaron Sorkin – that’s almost becoming a parody at this point. However, it has so many bases it wants to cover with so little time to conclude any of them. What’s more is that, unlike Sorkin’s other directorial efforts, the story the film is telling just isn’t quite interesting enough to make you care much about these various threads. Javier Bardem and Nicole Kidman will most likely get Oscar attention for this, but the film won’t be remembered past the end of the Awards Ceremony.
Being The Ricardos starts streaming on Amazon Prime from December 21