BEING THE RICARDOS film review

I Love Being the Ricardos. Whether you are a fan or scholar of I Love Lucy or not, this biographical motion picture is for you! Go behind the walls of 623 E. 68th St. (an address that in real life would be in the East River), and get up close and personal with one of the toughest weeks in Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz’ careers and the run of the sitcom. Being the Ricardos also represents Aaron Sorkin’s directorial debut, and be brings with him his penchant for exploring the human condition through dialogue steeped in subtext, thus adding the dramatic dimension to the dialogue. What I appreciate about Sorkin’s approach is how he seamlessly layers two timelines and a meta narrative into one another, in a manner that is consistently driving the plot forward in terms of plot and character. While the central focus of the film is on Lucille Ball being accused of being a communist, there are ancillary stories on Desi’s affairs and Vivan Vance’s complicated relationship with Lucille Ball and her character Ethel Mertz. William Frawley is depicted as the most level-headed out of the whole cast. Other dynamics of the mother of all sitcoms include the the power dynamic between the writers Madelyn Pugh, Bob Carroll Jr., and executive producer Jess Oppenheimer. Throughout the film, one theme is clear: home. What does a home mean or look like to you? Lucy desires a home, and she will fight for it.

In 1952, Hollywood power couple Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz face a series of personal and professional crises that threaten their careers, their relationship and their hit TV show.

With so many layers at play, it may have proven to be disastrous for many if not most writer-directors, but not Aaron Sorkin. Any reviews you’ve heard or read that suggest Being the Ricardos is too inside baseball are wildly exaggerated. Yes, there is a greater appreciation for the film by those that know I Love Lucy well, but even those that only know of the sitcom will appreciate it. The friend that attended with me had virtually no substantive knowledge of I Love Lucy, yet he laughed along with this film, and knew precisely what was going on and why it was so important. If you are a member of the creative economy that runs, writes for, or acts in a sitcom, then you will have a greater level of empathy and understanding for the ups and downs faced by writers, actors, producers, and sponsors in Being the Ricardos.

Being the Ricardos starts out “in the future” with interviews with the (late in real life) Jess Oppenheimer, Bob Carroll Jr., and Madelyn Pugh about I Love Lucy and that week–and they all had the same reaction. Although I thought the three comedy writers had passed away, I was completely convinced that Sorkin was interviewing the TV legends. I actually had to check Wikipedia for the death dates. Anyway. The illusion of a documentary layer added to the authenticity of this film. Periodically throughout the film, we return to our writers and executive producer for some retrospective commentary on the “past” or “present” story. These interview segments provide a more substantive context for the conflict to follow. Furthermore, it adds come comedic relief for the otherwise serious film.

Often times, these type of biographic motion pictures work to humanize or make relatable the central figure(s), and Sorkin’s film does just that. Even though the world knows that Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz divorced in 1960 (following the final performance of the Lucy Desi Comedy Hour), we still think fo them as the madly-in-love couple at 623 E. 68th St (and later at their house in West Chester, CT). Going behind the scenes, we witness four actors with their own demons and flaws. Perhaps you can identify with the struggles experienced by Lucy, Desi, Vivian, or William (Bill). And not just them, but Madelyn, Bob, and Jess too. More than a historical biographical picture, this is a motion picture that is very much a story of what it means to be human that is paired with a deep dive into one of the most beloved TV shows of all time.

Kidman’s performance as Lucille Ball and Javier Bardem’s performance as Desi are excellent! While Bardem may not disappear behind the costuming, hair, and makeup to the degree that Kidman does, he had Desi’s mannerisms and body language down pat! Clearly, he spent a great deal of time preparing for a role that has major shoes to fill, or should I say bongos to play. From her voice to her appearance to her body language, Nicole Kidman will wow you with her portrayal of the Queen of Comedy Lucille Ball. Kidman’s preparation for this role of a lifetime paid off in spades. If I didn’t know any better, I’d almost believe that I was watching Lucille Ball on screen. It reminds me, in many ways, of Jessica Chastain’s outstanding performance as Tammy Faye in (my favorite film of 2021) The Eyes of Tammy Faye.

For fans of the show, you may notice some continuity errors. Now, these errors don’t detract away from the film, but may surprise you. The show is in the middle of the second season, but the apartment set is the apartment they would move into after Little Ricky was born in Season 3. The giveaway was the window in the back. And in the film when they are referring to baby the Ricardos will have, it’s actually Desi Jr. that would be born during the third season and not Lucie, which is what is depicted in the film.

While we get a flashforwards to the famous grape vat scene, we do not get the most famous scene from I Love Lucy of all time: Vitameatavegemin. It is referenced, but we do not get to see Kidman recreate this scene. Maybe it’s a bonus feature on the BluRay. I hope so anyway!

Ryan teaches American and World Cinema at the University of Tampa. If you like this article, check out the others and FOLLOW this blog! Interested in Ryan making a guest appearance on your podcast or contributing to your website? Send him a DM on Twitter or email him at RLTerry1@gmail.com! If you’re ever in Tampa or Orlando, feel free to catch a movie with him.

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“Patriots Day” movie review

patriotsdayEmotionally intense–not for the faint of heart. Patriots Day is the dramatic account of the Boston Marathon Bombing and manhunt for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and his brother Tamerlan Tsarnaev. Starring a powerhouse cast on top of extensive research, this film couldn’t come at a better time when there exists such a low general public opinion of law enforcement. Boston Police Department (BPD) shines as it shows that law enforcement officers and officials truly care about the city they are responsible for protecting. Although tragedies often are more conducive for a documentary film, writer-director Peter Berg combines the information found in a doc film with cinematic storytelling techniques to successfully construct a narrative that will rock you to the core and keep you on the edge of your seat. With the inclusion of first person, news, and surveillance footage, Patriots Day does not shy away from the visceral horror that befell the City of Boston and surrounding areas. You think you may know the story, as I did, but nothing will prepare you for coming face to face with one of the most tragic events in modern U.S. history.

Ordinarily, this is where I summarize the plot; but the plot is mostly known all too well. Fortunately, this film goes beyond the news reports and constructs a diegesis (story/narrative) around the stories of eye-witnesses, victims, the wounded, medical first responders, and law enforcement–both local and federal.

Mark Wahlberg, John Goodman, Kevin Bacon, J.K. Simmons, and the rest of the principle and supporting cast deliver outstanding portrayals of the real men and women who were instrumental in the response to and apprehension of the bombers as well as those who fell victim to the arson and shrapnel. It isn’t often that films depicting tragedies are produced this close to the events contained therein. Occasionally, there are films about tragedies that are truly better suited for a documentary; but, in order to convert it to a cinematic motion picture, a love story is added for diegetic affect. That is not the case with Patriots Day. The focus is on the BPD, FBI, and medical first response to the bombing and massive manhunt that ensued immediately after the explosions. There are certainly romantic relationships indirectly connected to the narrative, but they are mostly included to juxtapose the everyday life that everyone thought they were going to have on April 15, 2013 against the horrifying events that transpired at America’s longest running marathon, which has become such an iconic event each year.

Logistically and diegetically, there is a simple answer as to how this tragedy was so successfully translated to the silver screen so close to the day it occurred whereas other tragic events (mass shootings, bombings, aero-spacial, maritime, etc) are more conducive for and translate to a documentary better. This tragic event is a combination of (1) the explosions themselves (2) the manhunt afterwards and (3) the impressive work of law enforcement. There is more to this story than the bombing itself. Certainly the bombing was the catalyst for the events that ensured afterwards, but the real story is of the incredible actions of law enforcement and other first responders. While there seems to be a general focus in broadcast news media on the negative actions–whether perceived or otherwise–of law enforcement officers, this powerful film shows police officers in a positive light–shows them as individuals who love the city under their protection and stop at nothing to protect the innocent. This is so important in today’s climate of scrutiny of public safety officials.

The cinematography, visual effects, and production design are flawless. So incredibly realistic that you will likely feel transported from your seat into the film itself. To my surprise, the film included interviews with key figures directly involved with or affected by the Boston Marathon Bombing. It’s not uncommon to include photos with textual exposition on the lives of central figures in a historical film; but this film goes beyond telling you “where they are now” or what happened after the events in the film. It includes video footage of interviews–you get to hear from the individuals upon whom the characters were based. I could not think of a better ending to a film such as this one. Patriots Day works because it is the best of what a documentary offers with the brilliance of cinematic storytelling techniques.

For those of you who appreciate historical films depicting tragic events, then this is one that you need to watch. It is not a film to be enjoyed in the conventional sense, but one that packs a powerful message and neither glorifies nor undermines the real historic event. Such a visceral film. Rated R for adult language.

Written by R.L. Terry

Edited by J.M. Wead

“The Accountant” movie review

theaccountantA moderately good investment of your time. The Accountant is quite the interesting crime drama that shows that math can be exciting and lead to dangerous adventures. Directed by Gavin O’Connor and starring a phenomenal cast including Ben Affleck, Anna Kendrick, J.K. Simmons, and John Lithgow, this film will keep your intrigue the entire runtime. What makes this film most interesting is the approach one might take when screening it. You can either approach it from a psychological/behavioral or a financial perspective. Although the plot is a little difficult to follow at times, the solid performances by the actors make the film one not to miss if you enjoy thrillers involving the government, covert ops, and savants. While some in the U.S. are shouting “make America great again,” Warner Bros. is shouting “make math sexy again.” From drop-dead shoot-out scenes to awkward comedic interactions, The Accountant will definitely have you thinking about it even after leaving the movie theatre. One the verge of being a non-linear film, the main plot does, at times, get lost in a few poorly integrated sub-plots. Definitely feels like one of those movies where important scenes that would have better supported or developed some of the sub-plots were left on the cutting room floor. The movie is not without its highlights. Affleck and Kendrick deliver outstanding performances that hold the film together. Whether it’s Affleck’s vacant expressions on his face or Kendrick’s WTF moments, the best part of the film is the talent on screen.

Talk about a double life. Accountant Christian Wolfe (Affleck) runs a small accounting agency in a nondescript strip plaza as a cover for his real work as an accountant and financial analyst for many organized crime groups. When the U.S. Treasury Dept begins to investigate him further, he takes on a seemingly normal client in an innovative robotics company. Forced to work with a beautiful and geeky in-house accountant (Kendrick), Wolfe is challenged with conducting a forensic analysis of the financial records in order to determine if there is embezzlement or money laundering occurring at the humanitarian robotics company. When he uncovers corruption, his life and the life of his counterpart is in jeopardy. Good thing Wolfe has an extensive background in martial arts and tactical armament.

Central to the plot of the film is the fact that our protagonist Christian Wolfe (Affleck) is on the autism spectrum. Although, he is on the high functioning end (often times diagnosed as Aspergers syndrome), Wolfe certainly displays classic signs of autism throughout the movie. More noticeable in his younger years, he still carries some of the psycho-social dysfunction into his adulthood. Wolfe’s father was a high-ranking official in the Army specializing in psychological warfare. He ran his home fairly, but with an iron fist. Both Wolfe and his brother were highly affected by the departure of their mother at Christmastime. The following years were hard on both of them. Coupled with–let’s be real here–daddy issues, Wolfe channels all his time and energy into military operations, martial arts, and psychological defenses. But, this intense training was forced on him by his father in order to combat the behavioral issues brought on by autism. After the death of his father, Wolfe decides to go from hero to anti-hero by making his living off organized crime but funneling his money into charitable causes. Although he may not have been racking up zeros in his bank account, he found other ways to be paid: valuable original artwork. The character of Christian Wolfe posts quite the dichotomy of attributes that create an interesting juxtaposition. One one hand, Wolfe is a ruthless criminal but not he other he is a humanitarian who appreciates fine art and loyalty.

There haven’t been many movies that fall into this sub-genre of drama. The Accountant is what you get when combining Batman with The Big Short. Because the film contains the classic elements and plot devices found in the aforementioned films, it has a little bit of an identity crisis. One of the flaws that besets this film is too much sub-plot. If the writer had spent more time developing the autism or concentrated on the daddy-issues sub-plot then perhaps the film would have flowed more smoothly. As it stands, the flashbacks introduce too much under-developed material into the high-concept plot. It’s almost as if the writer and director took a high-concept film and attempted to give it more emotional depth. The result is a fractured film that is interesting to watch and includes some dark comedy but suffers from coherent storytelling.

There aren’t too many choices at the cinema this weekend. If you are looking to laugh your ass off, then perhaps the Kevin Hart film will fit the bill; but if you are looking for an interesting film that highlights the potential and capabilities of those who are diagnosed as autistic and channel those abilities into a financial thriller, then The Accountant would be an excellent choice. Although there have been films featuring protagonists with physiological or psychological disabilities, this one is unique in that the main character harnesses the powers of the indirect affects of autism, and becomes an anti-hero who the audience roots for the whole time.