BEING THE RICARDOS (film review by Mark R. Leeper)

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Mark Leeper

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Dec 15, 2021, 11:57:21 AM12/15/21
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BEING THE RICARDOS is a fictional telling of three crises that
affected Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz during the early 1950s: Ball
was declared a Communist by Walter Winchell, there was a front-page
tabloid scandal about Arnaz and another woman, and Ball was
pregnant. (The latter may not seem like much of a crisis, but in
the early 1950s, television had never shown a pregnant woman, and
had certainly never used the word "pregnant".) The film has a lot
of flashbacks, but there seems to be a change of film stock that
helps us know what is 1950s and what is earlier. In a tribute to
the show, the first line (after the "documentary" opening--see
below) is, "Lucy, I'm home!"

In addition to all this, there is reasonable coverage of the
technical aspects of rehearsing and filming an episode at that
time.

There are a few criticisms one can make of the film. One that has
been made by many is that they cast a Spaniard (Javier Bardem) as
Arnaz, rather than someone from Cuba, or at least from Latin
America. (Similar casting, such as Antonio Banderas as a Cuban in
THE MAMBO KINGS PLAY SONGS OF LOVE in 1992, attracted less
attention. Indeed, the fact that they chose someone Hispanic for
MAMBO KINGS was considered a big step forward by some.) On the
other hand, Javier Bardem does get a chance to show off his singing
voice with Latin (American) songs.

There seems to have been less of a commitment to have the
characters in the film look like their real-life counterparts than
there often is in films of this sort. Perhaps that's a good thing;
the actors are actors, not impersonators, and covering actors in
lots of make-up to achieve an artificial resemblance is often
counter-productive. (They did do accurate hairstyles, though.) On
the other hand, it took me quite a while to realize that J. K.
Simmons was playing William Frawley (as Fred Mertz)--he was just
too recognizable as Simmons.

The film also does some major time compression, showing all these
crises as happening in one week, while in fact Ball was pregnant in
1951 and brought before HUAC--and event happening *before*
Winchell's accusation--in 1953. And unlike in REDS, the
"witnesses" (the people labeled as people who worked with Ball and
Arnaz in what is filmed in a documentary style) are not the real
people, but actors. (Quite possibly they are delivering things
that the real people actually said.) As in many biopics, the
viewer has a choice what there is to believe.

One suspects this will have more appeal for those who remember the
original "I Love Lucy" show, but its continuing popularity will
extend the audience for this.

Released theatrically 12/10/21. Rating: high +2 (-4 to +4), or
8/10.

Film Credits:
<https://www.imdb.com/title/tt4995540/reference>

What others are saying:
<https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/being_the_ricardos>

--
Mark R. Leeper

Adam H. Kerman

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Dec 15, 2021, 12:10:09 PM12/15/21
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Mark Leeper <mle...@optonline.net> wrote:

>. . .

>There are a few criticisms one can make of the film. One that has
>been made by many is that they cast a Spaniard (Javier Bardem) as
>Arnaz, rather than someone from Cuba, or at least from Latin
>America. (Similar casting, such as Antonio Banderas as a Cuban in
>THE MAMBO KINGS PLAY SONGS OF LOVE in 1992, attracted less
>attention. Indeed, the fact that they chose someone Hispanic for
>MAMBO KINGS was considered a big step forward by some.) On the
>other hand, Javier Bardem does get a chance to show off his singing
>voice with Latin (American) songs.

Don't tell the critics: Cuba had been a Spanish colony, and they have
Spanish ancestry.

I once saw a movie featuring two women: A Spaniard and a Mexican. Well,
a Spanish actress played the Mexican and a Mexican actress played the
Spaniard.

If Bardem can actually sing, gosh, that's perfectly legitimate casting.

>There seems to have been less of a commitment to have the
>characters in the film look like their real-life counterparts than
>there often is in films of this sort. Perhaps that's a good thing;
>the actors are actors, not impersonators, and covering actors in
>lots of make-up to achieve an artificial resemblance is often
>counter-productive.

Thank goodness.

>. . .

kelown

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Jan 16, 2022, 7:52:13 PMJan 16
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> I could have sworn there has been a previous -- probably made-for-TV --
> dramatization of Lucy's life but I could find no mention of it on her
> Wiki page.

Lucy & Desi: Before the Laughter (TV Movie 1991) - Frances Fisher,
Maurice Benard

Lucy (TV Movie 2003) - Rachel York, Danny Pino

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