NICOLE Kidman just won the Golden Globe best drama actress award for “Being the Ricardos” when most people thought it’d be Kirsten Stewart as Princess Diana in “Spencer”.
Nicole also played a real life character, Lucille Ball, a movie actress who hit it big on TV when she did the sitcom, “I Love Lucy”, with her husband, Desi Arnaz Jr., a Cuban bandleader. The show ran for six seasons, made her an icon and she won the Emmy best comedy actress award for five times.
Lucy is the first woman to head her own production company, Desilu, with her husband, and they produced other hit shows later like “Mission Impossible”, “Star Trek” and “The Untouchables”. “I Love Lucy” ran from 1951 to 1957 and it helped revive Lucy’s strained marriage to Desi, an inveterate womanizer, but they eventually divorced in 1960.
“Being the Ricardos” is set in 1952 during a crucial week in the lives of Lucy and Desi. It is told from the point of view of three writers who worked with them then: Jess Oppenheimer, Madelyn Pugh, and Bob Carrol. They’re shown being interviewed when they’re older and as they tell their stories, the whole story of Lucy and Desi unfold in flashbacks showing how they started their careers, how they met, and how “I Love Lucy”with the Ricardos was created.
Throughout the week, they are hounded by influential broadcaster Walter Winchell’s aspersion that Lucy is a communist. This was a big taboo then as it’s the height of the witch hunt that is McCarthyism (google it, kundi nyo alam). It’s like a sword of Damocles hanging on their heads as it will surely jeopardize Lucy’s career.
Through it all, Lucy also has to deal with other issues. Their co-stars, Vivian Vance and William Frawley, who play their friends and neighbors, don’t get along well as Frawley is a drunk.
Lucy also locks horns with her writers and directors about how scenes must be written and blocked, like a scene where Desi returns home while she is setting the table. Desi covers her eyes and makes her guess who it is and she enumerates the names of various men.
Lucy thinks it’s stupid and then she announces that she is pregnant with their second baby. CBS and their sponsor, Philip Morris, insist that they hide her pregnancy but they balk, saying it should be written into the show.
The film is written by one of Hollywood’s most skillful writer-directors today, Aaron Sorkin, best known on TV for “The West Wing”. We still believe that his “Social Network” should have won as best picture. We’ve revisited it a couple of times and we also love Jesse Eisenberg’s interpretation of Mark Zuckerberg.
In “Being the Ricardos”, Sorkin gives as an enlightening look into the complex professional and romantic relationship of Lucy and Desi, taking the viewer behind the scenes and behind closed doors during this critical week in their lives and showing us how TV shows were done on a soundstage with a live audience in the 50s. “Being the Ricardos” is an ode to early television, a film where history, showbusiness, politics and culture are brilliantly combined to reflect a past era.
And through it all, it is really Nicole Kidman who carries the entire film with her incandescent star and dominant acting brilliance. Sorkin has given her great scenes and some corruscating lines of dialogue and she just glows and radiates through all of them.
It’s a very layered performance: emotional as well as physical. In other words, she’s just spectacular and it’s so gracious of Bardem to know that as Desi, he’s just playing second fiddle to Nicole’s Lucy. But he does his own singing here of some Latin songs and it’s very good.
A priceless scene for us is when Lucy shows Desi a hanky with a lipstick mark on it. Desi tells her the lipstick is hers, then she shows him another handkerchief with another lipstick mark to show that he’s really cheating. He asks her forgiveness, saying the women he gets are just prostitutes. Lucy is temporarily disoriented, but when she faces the camera again, she remains so focused on her role.
Nicole’s re-creation of some iconic scenes of the real Lucille Ball (shown in black and white like the Italian episode showing her on a tub full of grapes) is also just exceedingly splendid. The role of Lucy is truly much more full of challenge and life, a fully realized character than that of Princess Diana. And Nicole projects it with a clear picture of Lucille Ball’s brilliance not only as a comedian but her toughness as a woman and her tenacity as a wife.
Giving great support are Nina Arianda as Vivian Vance, J.K. Simmons who uncannily looks like William Frawley, and the two sets of actors who portray the young and old storytellers.