Rated R for language and infidelity. There's nothing ever graphic on-screen. Honestly, if you watched the movie silently with subtitles and your kids can't read....well, maybe teach your kids to read. But most of everything is in concept. It's very Aaron Sorkin. You aren't going to see anything offensive. It's just thinking about the horrible world we live in. R.
DIRECTOR: Aaron Sorkin
Javier Bardem is horribly miscast. Please check again tomorrow for another Academy Award nominee.
Okay, I can't get away with that. If you want to skip the vibe of the whole blog, realize that the only thing that I didn't really care for was Javier Bardem's casting. But the movie is pretty good. It helped that we went in with low expectations. We didn't know that this was an Aaron Sorkin joint. I mean, I suppose I should have figured that out pretty early because it has a lot of elements of his other works wrapped up in it. But also, my wife and I both have relationships with I Love Lucy. Appropriately, my wife loved I Love Lucy. I really enjoyed it. When the '80s and '90s were Nick at Nite evenings, I more associate I Love Lucy with fond memories. My life was a lot simpler then. My parents would watch these shows with me, knowing that the content would be entertaining and family-friendly. So I never got wrapped up in the drama behind Lucy and Desi. For me, Lucille Ball was the lady from the multiple Lucy shows and the lady who made Star Trek happen. I also would imitate Jim Carrey in The Cable Guy when he did his over-the-top Desi Arnaz impression. My wife never really cared for me doing that, but that's my relationship.
But Being the Ricardos is far more than the biopic of Lucy and Desi. When I was writing recently about Spencer, I criticized that the story took place over the course of three consecutive days. Those days portrayed Princess Diana as emotionally unstable and it was bleak throughout. With Being the Ricardos, the film takes place over the course of a week that brought about a perfect storm. Desi Arnaz was being accused of having an affair; Lucille Ball had to let the higher ups that she was pregnant; and the most fascinating element, HUAC was going after Lucy for being a communist. Honestly, you could have made this movie just about the American response to the Red Scare and I would label this movie, "Two Thumbs Up! Fine Holiday Fun!" Instead, Sorkin --whether accurately or Sorkinly --raises the stakes to an insane level. There's this vibe of a pressure cooker throughout the film. When the silent font of a "Day X" pops up on the screen, slowly and ominously, it almost feels like a horror movie as the characters of the story march to their doom. While we have the benefit of history to build on the dramatic irony --Lucy would be okay --we knew also that Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball would divorce because of infidelity on the part of Desi Arnaz.
It's stressful, but it is compounded by the fact that Lucille Ball definitely wasn't Lucy Ricardo. To do what you did as a woman in Hollywood during the Red Scare is unimaginable. The film points out that a lot of credit goes to Desi Arnaz, who has the benefit of being a man in a male-driven society. But we also have to remember that Desi Arnaz was of Cuban descent. Cuba. We still have knee-jerk reactions to Cuba half-a-century later and this guy was the head of Desilu. So of course, Lucy and Desi weren't crying like a baby or singing "Babalu" all day. No, these were powerhouses. They were rude without realizing it. Sorkin toes this line with the portrayal of these characters. Lucy does some awful things, yet it still portrayed as friendly. Desi is an alpha male --often times to a fault --and has a thread of absolute devotion to his wife. Heck, the movie is about him cheating on her and yet there's this strong idea that he would do anything for Lucy. Let's be clear: I'm totally in favor of her kicking him to the curb. But Sorkin allows for both emotions to play out in the film and allows the audience to sort out their feelings. So, you know, great movie.
But then there's the point I started with. It's weird to think of how many movies that make it to the Academy Awards are either based on true stories or are straight up biopics. Maybe it's a tie to the idea that we're valuing the subject of the movie rather than the quality of the movie itself. This kind of leads to the argument of whether or not a person is doing a really good impersonation of the person or captures their essence. As part of that, I have a hard time seeing Javier Bardem as Desi Arnaz. That could be okay. I mean, people have played against type many times. I also really love Javier Bardem. When I see his name attached to a film, I normally lose my mind. He's borderline genius. But Javier Bardem is almost the antithesis of Desi Arnaz, at least what he presented to the public. The only thing that Javier Bardem seemingly has in common with Arnaz is that they both come from Spanish-speaking countries. But Javier Bardem isn't one for impersonations. He's always a version of Javier Bardem. In this, he's a tank. He's honestly the largest I've ever seen him. He's straight up muscular. Desi Arnaz was this Teen Beat heart-throb. He was svelt and wore thin ties because his body suited that. He was smiles comprised of all teeth. I'm sure that he could have been a powerhouse behind the scenes. But he demonstrated this element of whimsy with everything he did. Bardem still gives me a No Country for Old Men, Skyfall vibe.
It's not that Kidman exactly screams Lucille Ball. There are times that I'm desperately looking for something that matches my image of Ball. But do you know who she doesn't look like? She doesn't look like straight up Nicole Kidman. My mind allows me to lie to myself when I look at her. Couple that with the fact that Kidman is doing a voice that might not be a perfect imitation, but captures the essence of Lucy's voice goes a long way. I see her getting credit for this performance because it's nuanced and makes you feel like this might be Lucille Ball.
But the MVP in terms of playing the biopic rules is earned by J.K. Simmons. I don't care that he's in everything. I don't think the man has let me down yet. He nails William Frawley perfectly. He looks like the dude and carries himself the same way. It is uncanny. He honestly steals the show in every scene he's in, which is saying something because his peers in this film are phenomenal. Honestly, outside of the oddly cast Bardem, the movie is a powerhouse of performances. It has a bunch of people that I adore.
So it's a far better movie than I ever imagined. Is it the pinnacle of Sorkin's career? Probably not. But it hits every button that I like in a biopic, which is especially high considering that I roll my eyes at many biopics. It is a superb film with mostly great performances and is tight as can be. I loved it.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.