Being The Ricardos

I’m a show biz history buff so when I first heard about Being The Ricardos, I was excited. The real Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz were interesting people who were unlike their public images. I was in a bad mood yesterday so I watched it thinking it might improve my mood, It did not. It made it worse.

I spent the first 20 minutes of the movie adjusting the brightness on the tube. It’s a new QLED teevee with a sharp picture on everything except Being The Ricardos. The picture was dark and murky even on the set of I Love Lucy. I eventually moved to my desktop computer. After turning the brightness all the way up, it was watchable. Just barely.

The reason for the murkiness is the use of ambient lighting. It was a bad look when Stanley Kubrick started the trend with Barry Lyndon in 1975. Aaron Sorkin is no Stanley Kubrick. To be blunt, he’s a bad director and overrated writer.

Sorkin may think he’s following in the footsteps of writers such as Billy Wilder and Preston Sturges who became directors to protect their material. Instead, he should have followed Neil Simon or David Kelley’s example and let someone who knows what they’re doing direct. Aaron Sorkin thinks he knows everything. He does not.

Repeat after me: Aaron Sorkin is a bad director.

The premise of Being The Ricardos is promising. It’s set during a momentous week for Lucy and Desi. The Red Scare has ensnared America’s favorite redhead. Lucy is pregnant and the couple want to be the first to “have a baby” on the electric teevee machine. Desi wins the day on both points. Viva Desi.

The real Desi Arnaz was a smart and charming man. The reel Desi as played by Javier Bardem is smart and charmless. Bardem is a fine actor, but he’s woefully miscast. Desi Arnaz was a charming rogue with a twinkle in his eye and bounce in his step. Bardem has a somber visage with nary a twinkle or bounce in sight. Charm always eludes Aaron Sorkin.

Repeat after me: Aaron Sorkin is a bad director.

There was an online controversy over Nicole Kidman’s casting as Lucille Ball. The amateur casting directors of Twitter favored Debra Messing. I’m a Kidman stan and thought she did a good job. Besides, when casting the part of a star, choose a star. Nicole Kidman *is* a star but she was burdened with an unwieldy script replete with confusing flashbacks.

Repeat after me: Aaron Sorkin is a bad director and overrated writer.

I was excited when I heard of the casting of Nina Arianda as Vivian Vance/Ethel Mertz and JK Simmons as William Frawley/Fred Mertz. They were both good, but Nina wasn’t given much to do. It’s a pity because I love her as Patty the sharp lawyer in Goliath.

The depiction of Bill Frawley was disconcerting. He was indeed an alcoholic but by all accounts he was a charming drunk instead of the cranky old man in this fakakta movie. Frawley played Bub the grandfather on My Three Sons and the boys on that show loved him onstage and off. Charm always eludes Aaron Sorkin.

Why does a man with no sense of humor continue to set his work in the world of comedy? Sorkin did it on teevee with Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, which was about an SNL-type show. Unfortunately, the comedy bits were unfunny. That’s also the case with Being The Ricardos. Studio 60 was eventually blown off the air by 30 Rock, which debuted at around the same time. My countrywoman Tina Fey is funny. Aaron Sorkin is not.

I could go on and on about the flaws and anachronisms in the movie, but it boils down to this: Aaron Sorkin is a bad director.

It’s time to grade Being The Ricardos. I give it 2 stars and an Adrastos grade of C- only because I’m grading on a curve.

Repeat after me: Aaron Sorkin is a bad director.

The last word goes to the real Desi Arnaz:

4 thoughts on “Being The Ricardos

  1. It’s too bad, as it could have been a great film. I haven’t seen it yet, but will likely watch it, as I’m a huge “I Love Lucy” fan.

    • Peter Adrastos Athas says:

      When I review something, I never tell anyone NOT to see it. Different strokes.

  2. Charlotte H. says:

    It was a very tedious watch. I agree with most of your assessment except I think Kidman was terribly miscast. Her Lucy was a caricature, imo. ( I’m not much of a fan, anyway,) Bardem did his best with, as you say, an uncharming director. But looking at him saved the movie for me. Agree about Arianda – she is dynamite in Goliath. Agree about Simmons but at least his voice was closest to his character. All fine actors with a boringly presented script. Aaron Sorkin is a bad director.

  3. oyster says:

    The dark shadows in every scene were unnecessary and distracting. I thought the leads were miscast and it bothered me throughout (though they did the best they could with the wooden script). The supporting cast were excellent. But, like you say: no charm, scant humor, little insight, weak directing added up to a disappointing result.

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