Being the Ricardos review

There’s a delicate balance required in respectfully going behind the scenes of a beloved property and pushing through the nostalgia to make for an interesting film. With Being the Ricardos, director/writer Aaron Sorkin (The Trial of the Chicago 7) explores one of the classic sitcoms and a love story that was too good to stay true.

It’s a standard Sorkin production in a lot of ways with snappy dialogue, meticulously edited and told through various perspectives. Still, Being the Ricardos works incredibly well thanks to the fantastic performances from a cast that can deliver on the Sorkin formula.

Nicole Kidman (Aquaman) and Javier Bardem (Dune) star as Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, the stars of the megahit CBS sitcom I Love Lucy. The film focuses on one specific week in the show’s run as a news report connects Lucille with the Communist Party.

This is a kiss of death worse than the first schedule change for an NBC show. The CBS execs (led by Clark Gregg of Agents of SHIELD) are understandably nervous their Golden Goose is about to get cooked.



The potential end of their hit show is troubling enough, but Lucille is also mortified with a newspaper photo showing Desi canoodling with another woman. Facing a professional and personal crossroads, Lucille begins to consider if this is the end of everything she and Desi have built together.

Rather than dwelling on the 50-50 chance of the show avoiding cancellation, Desi rallies the troops and tries to proceed like business as usual. That’s fine for the gruff William Frawley (J.K Simmons, Invincible) who plays Fred and Vivian Vance (Nina Arianda), who plays his onscreen wife, Ethel.

Less enthused are executive producer Jess Oppenheimer (Tony Hale) and staff writers Madelyn Pugh (Alia Shawkat) and Bob Carroll (Jake Lacy) who are finding Lucille more demanding than usual.


Bardem is a bit more rugged and thicker than Arnaz, but what he lacks in a physical resemblance he quickly accounts for with his charming crooner performance.

Kidman, Bardem and Simmons are all acting Oscar winners so it shouldn’t be shocking that they easily carry the film. Arianda might lack the big screen award recognition, but she pairs up well with her co-stars specifically Simmons as they play out the prickly dynamic of Frawley and Vance.


Kidman is amazing. She seems a lock to earn her fifth Academy Award Best Actress nomination. Her take on Ball should put her in frontrunner status to win the Oscar alongside Kristen Stewart in Stewart and Lady Gaga in House of Gucci.

What’s so compelling about her performance is how Kidman shows that non-stop creative fire in Lucille’s mind, refusing to be casually dismissed as a woman during a time period where that was the norm and the vulnerabilities of an ‘older woman’ in Hollywood told she has the talent and unique face for radio.

It wouldn’t be surprising to see Bardem and Simmons also receive Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor nominations either.


Sorkin makes the setup more complicated than necessary. He has John Rubinstein, Linda Lavin and Ronny Cox playing the older versions of Oppenheimer, Pugh and Carroll providing background details of the hectic week. This setup allows Sorkin to frame the week as an event from the distant path allowing for easy segues from the present to the past. 

That take doesn’t always work since Jess, Madelyn and Bob aren’t always around for events Sorkin covers in flashbacks. This makes their recollections somewhat questionable if not outright unreliable. On the positive side, they provide Sorkin a means to show Lucille and Desi’s love story unfold, their professional challenges and ultimately major triumphs.

Sorkin could have constructed a better means to handle the flashbacks than telling it via three talking heads. As the film shows, they’re on the fringes of Desi and Lucille’s life and really just fit in a co-worker box with minor insight.


Given the audience that would most likely watch and appreciate a film about I Love Lucy casting highly recognizable actors in Lavin, Cox and Rubinstein was an odd choice. I Love Lucy fans might wonder why the title character of Alice is in the film playing a staff writer.

Despite the structure, the flashbacks are very useful in fleshing out the characters further.

A better gimmick Sorkin incorporates is how Lucy envisions the scenes playing out. She runs the jokes and scenarios through her head complete with the audience looking on and laughing if a joke lands appropriately. The clever component is Lucy plays this all out in black and white just like the TV audience would see it.


Yes, there’s some hiccups with the storytelling format, but ultimately Being the Ricardos thrives with the focus on Lucy and Desi navigating the pitfalls of their careers and marriage buoyed by a stellar performance from Kidman.

Rating: 9 out of 10

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Photo Credit: Amazon Studios