BEING THE RICARDOS is a fictional telling of three crises that affected Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz during the early 1950s: Ball was declared a Communist by Walter Winchell, there was a front-page tabloid scandal about Arnaz and another woman, and Ball was pregnant. (The latter may not seem like much of a crisis, but in the early 1950s, television had never shown a pregnant woman, and had certainly never used the word "pregnant".) The film has a lot of flashbacks, but there seems to be a change of film stock that helps us know what is 1950s and what is earlier. In a tribute to the show, the first line (after the "documentary" opening--see below) is, "Lucy, I'm home!"
In addition to all this, there is reasonable coverage of the technical aspects of rehearsing and filming an episode at that time.
There are a few criticisms one can make of the film. One that has been made by many is that they cast a Spaniard (Javier Bardem) as Arnaz, rather than someone from Cuba, or at least from Latin America. (Similar casting, such as Antonio Banderas as a Cuban in THE MAMBO KINGS PLAY SONGS OF LOVE in 1992, attracted less attention. Indeed, the fact that they chose someone Hispanic for MAMBO KINGS was considered a big step forward by some.) On the other hand, Javier Bardem does get a chance to show off his singing voice with Latin (American) songs.
There seems to have been less of a commitment to have the characters in the film look like their real-life counterparts than there often is in films of this sort. Perhaps that's a good thing; the actors are actors, not impersonators, and covering actors in lots of make-up to achieve an artificial resemblance is often counter-productive. (They did do accurate hairstyles, though.) On the other hand, it took me quite a while to realize that J. K. Simmons was playing William Frawley (as Fred Mertz)--he was just too recognizable as Simmons.
The film also does some major time compression, showing all these crises as happening in one week, while in fact Ball was pregnant in 1951 and brought before HUAC--and event happening *before* Winchell's accusation--in 1953. And unlike in REDS, the "witnesses" (the people labeled as people who worked with Ball and Arnaz in what is filmed in a documentary style) are not the real people, but actors. (Quite possibly they are delivering things that the real people actually said.) As in many biopics, the viewer has a choice what there is to believe.
One suspects this will have more appeal for those who remember the original "I Love Lucy" show, but its continuing popularity will extend the audience for this.
Released theatrically 12/10/21. Rating: high +2 (-4 to +4), or 8/10.
Film Credits: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt4995540/reference
What others are saying: https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/being_the_ricardos
Mark R. Leeper Copyright 2021 Mark R. Leeper