After revisiting a slice of 1960s history in last year’s “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” Aaron Sorkin has turned his lens in “Being the Ricardos,” cataloging a politically tumultuous week in the 1950s for Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz during the heyday of “I Love Lucy.” The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences often falls hard for movies about old Hollywood, and it would be foolish that they’ve changed their tune, especially after seeing films such as “Mank” from David Fincher garner the most nominations at last year’s ceremony. The new movie from Amazon Studios could follow a similar trajectory.
Under Sorkin’s direction, he presents plenty of chuckles and sympathy for our favorite redhead. Kidman embodies the essence of Lucille Ball, especially in the mannerisms during the rehearsals and filming of episodes. Although she very well may break your heart, demanding the viewer’s sympathy, a best actress nomination may seem almost certainly in the cards for her. The misstep may have been in Sorkin’s decision to recount how Lucy and Desi met and a critical turning point in her career. Kidman, 54, and Bardem, 52, are more than appropriate to portray these real-life figures in their 40s. However, Sorkin is asking for quite a bit of disbelief to see either of them in their late 20s and 30s in certain scenes. In addition, the makeup work in those periods is especially pronounced and seems more uneven, something that specific branch of the Academy could hold against them. Nonetheless, Kidman is still one of the most beautiful actresses in Hollywood, and she owns the entire spirit of one of the revered actresses on television.
An Oscar-winner for her turn as novelist Virginia Woolf in Stephen Daldry’s “The Hours” (2002), Kidman has created a remarkable wave of acclaim in the last decade. Following her Oscar nomination for “Rabbit Hole” (2010), she went on to become an Emmy darling with “Big Little Lies,” and has explored fascinating characters in films like “Stoker” (2013), “Destroyer” (2018) and “Bombshell” (2018). With four total career noms (including “Moulin Rouge” and “Lion”), it’s hard to ever count her out of the race.
Bardem rides the line between a lead and supporting role and doesn’t execute the same effectiveness as his co-stars. Much of that could be the knowledge that he is not Cuban and should not have played this role. His inclusion in the film heightens the ongoing issue of Latino representation in Hollywood. A USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative study found that Latinos are nearly nowhere to be found in movies. Seeing Bardem, a European Spaniard, take on the role of a revered Cuban figure when there are many available actors equally, if not more equipped to take on the part, remains discouraging. I hope the Academy recognizes that only four Latino actors have been nominated for a lead performance in the last 93 years. This doesn’t discount Bardem’s status in the actors’ branch. He was nominated for best actor for his portrayal of another Cuban, poet Reinaldo Arenas, in Julian Schnabel’s “Before Night Falls” (2000). Sporting a menacing haircut and a bolt pistol, he won the Oscar for best supporting actor for the best picture winner, “No Country for Old Men” (2007), sweeping the precursor prizes that year. His last nomination came as one of the Oscar morning “shockers” in Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s Mexican international feature submission, “Biutiful” (2010). His closest run with the Academy came as the James Bond villain Silva in “Skyfall” (2012), receiving noms from BAFTA, Critics Choice and SAG.
On paper, Simmons’s casting as William Frawley, who played “Fred” on “I Love Lucy,” was far too perfect to ignore. It’s been almost seven years since he ran away with best supporting actor for “Whiplash” (2014); he garners some of the film’s biggest chuckles and could be in the running for his second career nomination.
Nina Arianda, best known for her memorable turn in “Stan & Ollie” (2018), in many, serves as the emotional backbone of the story, and it would have been fantastic to see an entire movie about Vivian Vance. Engraved in the most competitive acting category this year, her awards campaign will rely on the acting branch’s willingness to finally invite her to the big leagues, something she’s proven to be worthy of for a long time. I would consider her the best-in-show.
The so-called “Sorkin-isms” are present, with sharp, fast dialogue, but could be the funniest script he’s penned in some time. You may see the distant cousin of “The Social Network” (2010) on the screen, the film that won him the Academy Award for adapted screenplay. In terms of the director’s race, it’s still unclear if Hollywood sees him in that realm yet, or if the director’s branch is willing to accept him into their ranks. They have been known to make transitioners wait.
Daniel Pemberton’s score is audaciously utilized on the artisan front, as it navigates the more dramatic beats before switching gears into the lighter moments.
Alan Baumgarten’s editing is just as quickly paced as it was for this nominated work last year on “The Trial of the Chicago 7.” Production design by Jon Hutman and set decoration by Ellen Brill should be no-brainers. At a minimum, the Art Directors Guild will see merit in their contributions.
The film is produced by Oscar-winning Steve Tisch (“Forrest Gump”), Oscar-nominee Todd Black (“Fences”) and Jason Blumenthal.
“Being the Ricardos” will open in theaters on Dec. 10 before streaming on Prime Video on Dec. 21.
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