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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“Bombshell” Film Review

Explosive! Bombshell is a brilliantly orchestrated and riveting film that takes you behind the scenes at Fox News in the months leading up to the oust of news business mogul Roger Ailes. Follow Megyn Kelly, Gretchen Carlson, and (fictionalized) Kayla as they battle the courts of public opinion and the seemingly impenetrable fortress of Fox News to take down the repulsive Roger Ailes. I went into this film prepared for a snark-filled satire, but what I was presented with was a meticulously written and directed docudrama that struck a fantastic balance between feature news story, so to speak, and motion picture. Although the film takes itself appropriately seriously, there are plenty of moments of levity that intertwine to strike the perfect tone. Where films tackling subjects as high profile and personal as this one occasionally fall victim to creating caricatures of real people and settings. Rather than limit the film to dramatizing the legal battle and cold hard facts, it uses the fictionalized character of Kayla to explore the psycho-social cost of being the victim of sexual harassment. So this film is just as much a human story as it is a recreation of an actual event. And it’s that human component that is explored through Kayla, Megyn, and Gretchen that gives this film incredible depth. There is no pretense in this film; it’s a raw, organic approach to adapting this story from the small screen to the big screen. You even get a few surprise cameos from some some familiar anchors and other personalities. Exemplary writing and direction is coupled with a highly effective stylistic cinematography and outstanding performances by the lead and supporting cast.

Bombshell is the dramatization of the downfall of Fox News mogul Roger Ailes that chronicles a group of women as they decide to take on the mastermind of the “fair and balanced” cable news network and the toxic atmosphere he presided over at Fox News.

There have been a few films in recent years that seek to dramatize and tackle the human cost of lecherous sexual harassment and abuse of power in the work place. But this is the first one to strike the perfect balance of PSA and dramatic plot. I love the irony all throughout the film, the stark contrast between “traditional values,” and “fair and balanced” approaches and the repulsive behavior behind the scenes. Yes, Ailes might look like a pioneer for women in that he was the first to truly give women the big anchor chair, but at a scaring and traumatizing cost. He was a sadistic magician of sorts with his “look at what my right hand is doing, meanwhile my left hard is truly pulling the strings.” Much like the news network that he built (and to his credit, he was a broadcast news business genius), the surface was not a reflection of the disgusting practices to craft this “family friendly” illusion. The truly scary portrait that this film paints is not limited to Fox News, but it is likely a reflection of the business of running a “visual medium” by in large. While much of what Ailes did was direct sexual abuse and harassment, he committed a lot of indirect abuse and harassment that leaves just as traumatizing a mark upon the women he abused. Much like Hustlers posited that the entire world is a strip club where a few are dancing while the majority are paying, this film also explores the dark, seedy underbelly of “sex sells” and sex appeal.

The performances are mindblowing! How Charlize Theron completely transformed into Megyn Kelly is nearly as uncanny as Rene Zellweger’s transformation into Judy Garland in Judy. You will swear that you are watching Kelly on the big screen. Theron not only nails the look of Kelly, but the tone of voice, rhythm of speech, and body language. She is truly captivating, and showcases her phenomenal acting chops. Here’s hoping for an Oscar nom for her! Although Megyn Kelly is the central character, she is supported by Gretchen Carlson brilliantly portrayed by Nicole Kidman and fictionalized Kayla, played by Margot Robbie. In the same vein of Theron’s excellent performance, Kidman also nails Carlson down to a science. When I watched Kidman on the Fox and Friends set, I swore that it was Carlson herself. Kidman brings out the strength of character and vulnerability of Carlson. It is clear that Kidman did her homework as well as her character did. Finishing out our trifecta of women at Fox is Kayla, an entry level staff member on various shows at Fox News. She is our conduit through which we experience the extend of Ailes reprehensible behaviors behind the scenes. She represents a young eager professional that can be found in many offices. She is the “everyman,” for all intents and purposes. This role gave her so much to work with, and she was able to demonstrate the wide breadth of her acting abilities. Such a versatile actor! I also appreciate the writing of her character for giving us a normal, every day, woman of faith. One whom isn’t prudish, judgmental, or pious. Her character was likable, sex positive, and NOT homophobic. However, she also highlights how many conservatives view Fox News. And you can feel her heart break as she falls victim to Ailes, that moment she realizes and experiences that the head of Fox News is a disgusting human being.

Not only do the women shine brilliantly in this film, but John Lithgow’s Roger Ailes is fantastic! It’s hard to praise such a disgusting man, but here we have to separate the actor from the character. Lithgow is one of the most charismatic and witty actors ever, and he convinces us that he IS Ailes. I can only imagine the difficulty in portraying such a villainous person. What stands out the most in the performance, aside from the image, is how much he humanized Ailes. Showed him to self-aware of his body image and how he, much like we, rationalize negative behaviors. But it’s this human side that makes Ailed even more frightening. He successfully turns Ailes from TV business diabolical genius to mob boss. Towards the end of the film, we get an appearance by Malcolm McDowell as Rupert Murdoch himself. Such a delightful surprise to see McDowell on the big screen again. His Rupert is on point! And in his brief time on screen, he commands it strongly.

The choice of cinematography was very interesting. The movie starts out as if we are at Fox News HQ on a tour of the facility and shows. Our guide is Megyn Kelly! She simultaneously walks us through the facility and provides poignant social commentary on the image and relationships of Fox News to the world. The manner that the camera moves throughout the scenes of the film is in a documentary fashion in the scenes that are real-life recreations of the actual events. When we are in a fictionalized part of the movie, then the camera moves in a more traditional manner for scripted motion pictures. This oscillation between objective and subjective makes for a dynamic experience. Instead of a clip show of headlines and what trended in social media during this time, the film goes deeper to reveal the heart of the issue: ultimate power. Tension and suspense are built effectively as the narrative unfolds in a gripping fashion. From the creative to the technical, everything about this film works flawlessly.

Ryan teaches screenwriting 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! You can catch Ryan most weeks at Studio Movie Grill Tampa, so if you’re in the area, feel free to catch a movie with him!

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