Being the Ricardos
Stars: Nicole Kidman, Javier Bardem, J.K. Simmons, Nina Arianda, Alia Shawkat, Tony Hale, Jake Lacy
Cracking performances from Nicole Kidman and Javier Bardem are pretty much the sole reason for seeing this underwhelming biopic from wordy wordsmith Aaron Sorkin about comedienne and ‘I Love Lucy’ star Lucille Ball and her Cuban-American band leader husband and TV co-star Desi Arnaz.
It takes place over a credibility-stretching busy week as Ball is revisited by accusations of being a member of the communist party, a matter she thought had been put to bed. Meanwhile stories abound in the tabloids about her husband’s alleged philandering. Lucille also announces to horrified TV heads that she is pregnant and that her pregnancy should be worked into the plot. The bigwigs insist that the sight of a woman with child would be too much for the feint-hearted American viewers, but Ball backed up by Arnaz stands her ground. The film flashes back intermittently to outline how the couple met, the early days of their marriage and initial career travails. The deployment of fake archive talking heads as a framing advice feels particularly naff and redundant here.
The leads are excellent, and these are very much performances rather than impersonations. Kidman’s Ball is determined and fearlessly iconoclastic, although her perfectionism and control freakery means even her frustrated female co-star Vivian Vance (the excellent Arianda from ‘Stan and Ollie’) must bend to her will. Bardem, who frankly looks nowt like Arnaz, seems to be having a ball as the infectiously enthusiastic and effortlessly charming Desi and the scenes where he is fronting his band, on one occasion with a comically large samba drum strapped to his waist, imbue the film with a much-needed sense of joy.
Otherwise, Sorkin’s direction is plodding and his script unfocussed with too much of his trademark speechifying and ventriloquizing. He’s clearly besotted with this business called show and its urbane sophisticate backroom creators, but there are a few too many scenes of writers’ room bickering.
Being the Ricardos is released on 10th May
Follow David on @DWill_Crackfilm