‘Being the Ricardos’ is Another Sharp, Engrossing Film from Aaron Sorkin (Review)

by | Dec 7, 2021

It was only a matter of time until arguably the biggest television show of all-time, I Love Lucy, finally got a film adaptation that covered the sitcom in some sort of fashion. Enter Aaron Sorkin, one of the best writers in Hollywood, coming on the heels of directing (and writing) one of 2020’s best films in The Trial of the Chicago 7 (which in this critic’s opinion was the best film of 2020). In just his third directed film, Sorkin continues harnessing the skills he has been lauded for that go beyond the scripts in the engrossing Being the Ricardos. Thanks to a great duo of leads and one of the year’s best screenplays, this insightful feature detailing the behind-the-camera drama of its characters is a must-see in theaters or when it becomes available on the streaming service Prime Video later this month. 

Being the Ricardos takes place over the course of one week and the process leading up to the shoot of an episode of the iconic sitcom. While perfecting an episode is one of the film’s focuses, it also covers the complexity of the relationship between its stars, Lucille Ball (Nicole Kidman) and Desi Arnaz (Javier Bardem) on set and away from the studio. On top of that, the film also presents some additional storylines from one of its main characters that collide with the show’s production, introducing a couple new dilemmas (which of course won’t be spoiled here). With so much to cover in just 131 minutes, this all seemingly could have been covered in a limited series. However, Sorkin keeps the script tight and fresh, which helps the film move at a brisk, interesting pace that never feels boring, thanks him adeptly juggling all the film’s storylines (and chaos) that revolve around the groundbreaking sitcom. In the hands of anyone else, this film almost certainly would have faltered. 

While Sorkin is what helps bring this film together, it cannot be understated how good both Nicole Kidman and Javier Bardem are as Lucille and Desi. While controversy has surrounded the film’s leads in recent weeks, it’s difficult to deny how each actor perfected the mannerisms of both television stars. If you ever have seen an episode of I Love Lucy (and who hasn’t?) or watched an interview featuring either of them, Kidman, especially, fits the mold of Lucille Ball when she commands the room, whether in the preparation of bringing the episode together before its shoot or when the film retells any classic moment from the show. And Bardem as Desi Arnez is charming and just as captivating as his co-star, despite him playing a character whose name is not in the title of the sitcom. And you’re certain to notice other name-brand actors as well–J.K. Simmons as William Frawley and Nina Arianda as Vivian Vance (Frank and Ethel from I Love Lucy), for instance. Both are terrific in their respective roles, but especially Arianda, who should garner some awards consideration in the supporting actress category this season. 

I Love Lucy was beloved by millions and has been in need of some sort of adaptation in order to show us all a bit more of who these complex characters really were when they weren’t in front of the camera. Sorkin, who has been a staple in Hollywood for a long time now, nails the assignment by delivering a detailed, and often surprisingly funny, film that is more than just a simple cover of one of the biggest shows America will ever see. Sure to garner plenty of awards consideration throughout the season, Being the Ricardos lives up to its lofty expectations.

Rating: 4/5