Writer/director Aaron Sorkin has honed his style over the years to the degree of a precision watch maker. Famous for his clever, rapid-fire dialogue, Sorkin is at his best when his words are coming out of the mouths of a group of people overcoming obstacles to achieve a common goal.
“Being the Ricardos” is Sorkin at his very best as he takes us behind the scenes of the most tumultuous week in the history of television’s most iconic show, “I Love Lucy.”
Working with a tremendous cast at the top of their game, “Being the Ricardos” shows us the lives of Lucille Ball (Nichole Kidman) and Desi Arnaz (Javier Bardem) as they navigate separate personal and professional crises that could end both their careers and their marriage.
At the height of the Red Scare that gripped Hollywood in the 1950s, Lucy is accused of being a communist, an accusation that not only would end her career, but put everyone working on the show out of a job.
At the same time, a tabloid runs a story about Desi enjoying a night out on the town with some lovely ladies that were not Lucy.
As everyone rushes around trying to put out these fires, the show must go on and we get a glimpse into the show’s creative process from start to finish and the laser-like focus of Lucy’s comedic genius (the degree to which she fusses over the timing of arranging flowers in one scene to get the most laughs shows her insanely high attention to detail).
The supporting cast is fantastic, with standouts being J.K Simmons who is dependably awesome as William Frawley (he played Fred on the show), Alia Shawkat is great as Madelyn Pugh, the only female writer on the staff and Tony Hale is at his exasperated best as showrunner Jess Oppenheimer who has to keep all the plates spinning while holding his own against both Lucy and Desi.
But let there be no doubt, the stars of this show are Kidman and Bardem. They are electric as Lucy and Desi. Kidman gives us a Lucy that is determined and calculating behind the camera and zany and daring in front of it. Bardem plays Desi as both a doting husband and a man resentful of never being able to fully escape from his wife’s shadow.
Bardem and Kidman have great chemistry, especially in flashbacks to their courtship and lives together before “I Love Lucy” made them household names.
You can always accuse Sorkin of being too overwritten and too clever, but his style fits perfectly in this love letter to the golden age of television.
Being the Ricardos may not have been the easiest job in the world, but it certainly is thrilling to watch.
“Being the Ricardos” is rated R for language.