Hey Aaron Sorkin, buddy, maybe we give the directing thing a break for a while, huh?
“Being the Ricardos” follows a fictionalized week in the life of “I Love Lucy” star Lucille Ball, including her discovering she is pregnant and being accused of being a communist. Javier Bardem also stars as Ball’s husband and co-star Desi Arnaz, while J. K. Simmons, Nina Arianda, Tony Hale, Alia Shawkat, Jake Lacy, and Clark Gregg are featured in supporting roles. Aaron Sorkin writes and directs.
When he cameoed as himself over a decade ago in the HBO series “Entourage,” Aaron Sorkin said he had no interest in transitioning from writing to directing. Fast forward to 2021 he is on his third directorial effort, each time helming his own scripts. Sorkin’s writing is very unique, with his quick wit deliveries and walk-and-talks, but both his previous outings, “Molly’s Game” and “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” were pretty blandly directed while remaining effective in the writing and performance department. “Being the Ricardos” continues that trend, with Nicole Kidman giving an expected strong performance as Lucille Ball and the script having several great lines, but the film falls flat in other categories.
As a writer, Sorkin is great, he has proven this time and again. While he always writes about true-life stories, he is more concerned with capturing the era and ideas lore than being historically accurate (even his crowning gem “The Social Network” is far from a biopic). As a director… let’s just say screenwriter Aaron Sorkin deserves a better director than Aaron Sorkin. While some of his camerawork is a little more inspired here than his last two films, Sorkin struggles to infuse much color or flair into his frames. His color pallet is pretty standard and it’s a lot of simple shot-reverse-shots. When an expert director like David Fincher, Danny Boyle, or Bennett Miller is given his scripts, they create a tense and energetic ride; Sorkin struggles to build more than a slow gallop.
Playing comedian Lucille Ball, Nicole Kidman is more concerned with depicting her strong and creative traits more than duplicating her looks or physical comedy skills (she really only resembles Ball when her red wig is up in a bun under a bandana). Ball can envision scenes right off the page, and has clear desires for his she wants her show run. This can cause some hurt feelings and conflict in the office, but end of the day it’s her name on the title card.
As Desi Arnaz, Javier Bardem has some moments of charm, though he’s playing more of a Cuban caricature than also trying to be the man that Americans saw in their homes every Monday night. The rest of the cast is solid and has some moments to shine or earn a laugh, but at some points they seem to be inconsistent with what style of comedy or drama they bring to the film.
The film is structured similar to Sorkin’s “Steve Jobs” in that it chooses to follow a small window of time in the main character’s life, but condense the timeline and interactions into a convenient narrative. Sorkin has shown he can make these types of stories work, but “Ricardos” jumps around in time so much it starts to give whiplash, and at times it is flat-out confusing why we are seeing what we are seeing when we are seeing it.
“Being the Ricardos” is a disappointment given its talented writer, all-star cast, and red-headed central topic. There are some moments of fun quips and inside baseball looks into Old Hollywood, but overall I really just wanted more.
Critics Rating: 5/10