NICOLE KIDMAN. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways..
Actually, scrap that. We would be here all day and beyond were I even to begin musing upon my favourite all time muse. You know I love her. I know I love her. Nicole probably knows too. She is right up there in the Goddess pantheon. It’s an elite club, trust me. I only pick the best.
But enough about me. I can be an objective critic. I learned that lesson from Naomi Watts‘ lovely mom. ‘James, you do not have to give good reviews to bad movies, just because you love the actress‘. She was right, of course. Even a blogger must have rules and objectivity. Naomi, of course, is lovely and a good mate of..well..back to..
..Nicole! As I recall, I gave Nic a bad review for NINE PERFECT STRANGERS? That role felt redundant. A kind of greatest hits package or something. It showed range but little if any depth, though that is the price of prolific work. Nicole is always in some film or series or theatre production at any given time and has launched a cosmetics range. Not every project will hit the mark.
But BEING THE RICARDOS redeems any perceived setback in Ms Kidman’s run of great performances.
She is PERFECT as Lucille Ball. As in BORN TO PLAY THIS!!! The dogged determination, the vision, the beauty, the sex appeal, immaculate comic timing and resolute work ethic.
Nicole conveys it ALL, and across a spectrum of age ranges, subtly evolving throughout the film. This is a masterpiece performance, even down to the voice Oscars ahoy!
The movie is ‘about’ the rise of Lucille from contract player on cusp of either movie stardom or faded supporting actor status. It captures her decisive propulsion away from any perceived limitations in the business, crafting comedy television shows on her terms.
At the same time, there is a parallel story of Desi Arnaz. It is he who inspires Lucille to fight her corner: against the anti-communist purges and other insidious forces such as racism and sexism. His own commercial genius and technical skill are done justice by Javier Bardem.
Despite Javier’s modest protestations to the contrary: the man CAN sing, dance and swing. Best rendition of Cuban Pete since Jim Carrey in THE MASK (Happy 60th Birthday, Jim, btw: you will love Being the Ricardos!).
Bardem does not shy from Desi’s philandering yet manages to make the man relatable, right to the end. One is left in little to any doubt that Arnaz loved Lucy (!); but that his code of machismo came with a kind of entitlement toward extra marital fun. A bizarre bifurcation that feels nonetheless ‘ok’ in many ways, and in part, because Nicole manages to convey that Lucille is hurt but never truly broken by the affairs.
The whole piece is a traditional biopic although it is non linear. It takes, instead, a thematic approach: focusing on Lucille’s approach to various problems she faced in building her career and marriage. The drawback there is a lack of pace and purpose on occasion and a blurring of tone.
Is this meant to be a warts and all portrait or a kind of enchanted tribute? The balance is uncomfortable, on occasion. And there are moments where one simply wishes they had remade full episodes of Lucille’s old shows, with Nicole and Javier in the sitcom leads. Particularly jarring when the dialogue falls flat or features heavy handed anachronisms.
‘Don’t gaslight me’: REALLY, really? Lucille NEVER SAID THAT. I would bet money on that (albeit a small sum). And yes, we GET IT. Communist purge = a BIT like cancel culture. No need to KEEP saying ‘cancel’. We are NOT THICK, yeah? 😉
Editing does not help the script’s tendency toward dry procedural narrative and sanitised yet somehow still ‘raw’ personal drama. Those drawbacks fall squarely at Aaron Sorkin’s door, as director. Equally, however, he has masterminded the movie’s strengths and especially its perfect casting and informative, insightful and immersive presentation. Good job. Well done!
Every click of lamp, lighting of cigarette, smoky aura of nightclub and choreography of audience testing is ‘there’ onscreen. Helped enormously by music, notably a score by Daniel Pemberton (very John Barry: Bond producers, take note!).
So yes: RECOMMENDED! GRADE A. Maybe give us a sequel? There is so much more to tell with Lucille..and Nicole can definitely reprise the role, perfectly.
TRIVIA: Without Lucille? One could make a case for saying there would be no STAR TREK. But that, dear reader, is another story, entirely. Google it! 🙂