Hollywood may appear glamorous but, like many a biopic before it, Being the Ricardos reveals it can be anything but.
Recently winning a Golden Globe for her work, and now nominated for a SAG award, Nicole Kidman stars as famed American actress and comedian Lucille Ball.
Lucille and her husband Desi Arnaz (Javier Bardem) are a power couple of the 1950s fronting CBS’s hit show I Love Lucy, and drawing in crowds with their charming romance and wit.
We may think “cancel culture” is new, but Lucille and Desi’s career and relationship are threatened when reports begin to circulate about Lucille’s apparent connection to the communist party, and rumours suggest Desi is having an affair.
Their show – which averaged 15 million viewers (60 per cent of American households) at its peak – faces being axed by the network, and how Lucille responds will define the rest of her professional endeavours.
Although it focuses on one particularly precarious week in Lucille’s life, Being the Ricardos overflows with insights into marital power plays, evolving cultural norms and the influence of money and faith on what we see on TV.
Being the Ricardos overflows with insights into marital power plays, evolving cultural norms and the influence of money and faith on what we see on TV.
Lucille is a woman of many talents, hamstrung by “what’s appropriate” and the need to downplay her age and intellect (Lucille was 40 when shooting for I Love Lucy began) in order to appeal to the audience. This feeds bouts of neurosis, and she fixates on perfecting certain elements of the show, seeing it as a reflection of her own life and home, craving a sense of control and stability that’s forever out of reach.
In the same way we deal with the “highlight reel” of each other’s digital lives versus the behind-the-scenes reality, Lucille was dealing with the discrepancies between the saccharine nature of her show and the hostile boardroom meetings that brought it to life.
In scenes that seem almost laughable to a 2022 audience, she and Desi debate with CBS executives over “how Cuban” he can be on air, and the “scandal” of Lucille’s pregnancy being mentioned let alone appearing on TV: “if we show she’s pregnant, people will think about how it happened”.
Being the Ricardos is an absolute step back in time. It’s an ode to a woman who deeply craved connection and “home” but battled with who to trust and how to step up without losing the things she loved.
It’s an ode to a woman who deeply craved connection and “home” but battled with who to trust and how to step up without losing the things she loved.
It depicts a bygone era, but Lucille’s story resonates with those us craving to become all we believe we can, and wanting to maintain authenticity under pressure.
Being the Ricardos is streaming now on Amazon Prime.