Being the Ricardos review – Kidman gets serious with Lucille Ball

Nicole Kidman is brilliant, if anything but funny, in Aaron Sorkin’s writerly, behind-the-scenes take on I Love Lucy, with Javier Bardem as Desi Arnaz

“I’m Lucille Ball – when I’m being funny, you’ll know it,” says Nicole Kidman, who plays the comic actor without so much as a wink. With her pencil-thin eyebrows, corkscrew curls and elastic mouth, Ball was known and loved for her starring role in the 1950s sitcom I Love Lucy. Kidman and writer-director Aaron Sorkin are less interested in recreating her gift for physical comedy than they are in fleshing out her serious side. Kidman has been funny before (she’s a hoot in To Die For and The Paperboy). Not so here. “I care about what works. I care about what’s funny,” she says, forehead wrinkling. Still, it’s a brilliant performance; witty, fierce and technical.

Taking place over the course of a single episode of the show, from Monday’s table read to Friday’s live audience taping, the film mostly plays out on soundstages and Hollywood backlots. We also get a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the crumbling relationship between Ball and Desi Arnaz (Javier Bardem), her husband both on and off screen. Both are digitally enhanced in flashback scenes, a technique that is at once distracting and creepy.

The film is obsessed with deconstructing good screenwriting, the way a line lands, and ensuring clear character motivation. Fans of Sorkin’s own dense, rhythmic screwball dialogue will enjoy watching Alia Shawkat and Jake Lacy trade zingers in the writers’ room.

  • In cinemas now and on Amazon Prime Video from 21 December

Watch a trailer for Being the Ricardos.


Simran Hans

The GuardianTramp

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