Being the Ricardos: An unfocussed narrative lets this Javier Bardem-Nicole Kidman film down
It all begins with a scandal that strikes the Ricardos when Desi is captured with a stunning lady and a tabloid prints speculations of his affair.
Writer-director Aaron Sorkin’s insistence on examining the lives of 1950s comedy star Lucille Ball (Nicole Kidman) aka Lucy Ricardo and her husband Desi Arnaz (Javier Bardem) aka Ricky Ricardo from one too many perspectives brings this film down. It’s a film set during three time periods—Lucy’s past, her present, and a future where her past life is discussed by her former colleagues.
It all begins with a scandal that strikes the Ricardos when Desi is captured with a stunning lady and a tabloid prints speculations of his affair. Desi and Lucy try to make up by making out, but soon, a voice on the radio cries that Lucile Ball is a Communist. This is a revelation that could potentially alter her life. All this is enough to bring about enough tension in their relationship. And yet, Sorkin throws in conflict after conflict, including offscreen dynamics and Lucy’s pregnancy among other things.
Every time we begin to invest into the relationship between Desi and Lucy, Sorkin brings in a flashback or sometimes, a flash-forward to fizzle things out. The focus is often removed off those people we wish this film remained focussed on. For instance, I might have been more interested to delve deeper into the conversation Lucy has with her colleague William Frawley (JK Simmons) about her failing marriage.
In fact, one of the best scenes in the film plays out between these two, at a time when Desi has not been home in a while. It’s a chat in which they discuss whether or not Desi might be feeling like he isn’t quite getting the credit he deserves for his work in her shows. Lucy, in desperation to save the marriage, tries to do something, but suddenly, she realises that it may all be hopeless. However, this transition from hope to hopelessness is not apparent. You are left with a lot of questions but not enough answers, and that’s never a good sign, especially in a film about a complex relationship.
All the backstage drama in this film, ostensibly introduced to spice up the screenplay, only distracts. Perhaps the film might have benefitted from the spotlight being more focussed on the stars of the show. That way, the crash of the central relationship might have got more space to breathe. For lack of it, along with the relationship at the centre of this story, the film too crashes down.