television

Stylish Films: Being The Ricardos

Lucille Ball was a trailblazer, one of the icons of early television, an icon of comedy, an icon of womanhood. A no nonsense perfectionist who didn’t suffer fools gladly, she created television in her series ‘I Love Lucy‘ that has stood the test of time, and is still hilarious today. This week I finally caught up with the Aaron Sorkin Amazon Original Movie that is all about one terrible week in her life, when it seemed that everything she had worked hard to achieve would come crashing down, due to an allegation by Walter Winchell, that Lucille Ball was a communist. At the same time, there were further allegations, in the sleazy Confidential magazine, that her husband Desi Arnaz, was having affairs. It seemed that ‘Being the Ricardos‘ could actually be hell.

Being the Ricardos is a clever, rather brilliant film with a standout cast. Nicole Kidman, another tall beautiful redhead plays Lucille perfectly and is matched in the role by a charismatic turn Javier Bardem as Desi, they have great chemistry. The supporting cast is also perfect – I love Stan and Ollie actress Nina Arianda as actress Vivian Vance, and JK Simmons as her screen husband William Frawley. Vance and Frawley famously detested one another, and this is beautifully, sometimes hilariously portrayed in the film.

The story focuses on that one, horrendous week, but there are lots of flashbacks, to Lucille’s rather lacklustre movie career that never really took off as it should, to her meeting with bandleader Desi, and their early, volatile relationship, and to how moving into radio led to her emergence as the most important woman on television. We see the perfectionist that she was on set, how she tried things to make sure the episode was not only funny, but that things actually made sense. We see her relationships with her co-star, particularly Vivian Vance as Lucy’s next door neighbour Ethel, and also her complicated relationship with Desi, passionate and loving, but also constantly fraught due to his frequent infidelity. There is also a real highlighting of how ridiculous early American television was – how the producers wanted to completely hide Lucille’s real pregnancy in the series, rather than incorporating it as Desi suggested. Desi won the battle and trailblazed the way for the likes of Frances McDormand in Fargo, who won the Oscar for her portrayel of a pregnant police officer.

I love how clips from the original series are recreated, particularly the hilarious grape scene, that later made Julia Roberts howl with laughter in ‘Pretty Woman’. There are also lovely anecdotes and asides, such as the story of how Lucille dyed her hair that famous shade of red and why. Nicole Kidman is impeccably styled in the film, a real treat for those who love 1940s and 50s styling, the impeccable androgynous blue waistcoat and trousers being my personal favourite outfit.

Being the Ricardos is an absorbing film with some great central performances. Highly recommended.

 

 

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