January is still proving to be a rough month across the board, so we’re gonna continue our look back 2021 with a few more movies that I missed! Will some of them be contenders for the end of the year lists I’ll be putting together very soon? Let’s find out!!
Being the Ricardos
Being the Ricardos is owned by Amazon Studios
Directed by Aaron Sorkin
Lucille Ball (Nicole Kidman) and Desi Arnaz (Javier Bardem) are about to have a rough week making their show I Love Lucy when a local news station accuses Lucille of having ties to the Communist Party. Couple that with tabloids about Desi’s behavior, fights with the network over content, and a director that really gets under Lucille’s skin, and there may not be a show to put on by the time it goes to air! Can Lucy and Desi smooth through all of these problems without alienating the people who help them make the show, and is there more at stake than their careers if things go badly?
Aaron Sorkin has always been fascinated with the inner workings of organizations that carry a lot of public weight; places where hiding the turmoil behind the scenes is just as important as anything else they are doing. It seems almost natural that he’d turn that fascination even more inward with a movie about the field he’s most familiar with, television productions, and while there are some Sorkin-esque flaws in this movie, I think the material has steered him into making one of his best works. Lucy and Desi, at least as they are portrayed in this movie, are fascinating characters with deeply compelling inner lives, and the movie makes no bones about singing their praises throughout. Whenever they clash with the network over their creative vision for the show, it’s played with reverence as these victories did end up revolutionizing television and American culture, and Sorkin definitely uses this story to indulge in his favorite topics. Strong men and women with sharp tongues and even sharper wits sticking it to the old guard to make way for the next generation is well-worn territory for him, but the fact that he’s drawing from real things that other people did tempers that enthusiasm and so it comes off as genuinely important rather than mere wish fulfillment. Now that’s not to say he doesn’t exaggerate in places as the film does lack a certain sense of authenticity. Clothing, technology, and even a lot of the attitudes do fit in with the time period, but it never quite feels like a period piece with Sorkin’s dialogue being what it is, and the overall look and feel of the show just feels too modern. I don’t know if there are HD transfers of I Love Lucy, but I’m guessing they don’t look this crisp and they certainly weren’t shot in widescreen. Still, even if it’s a bit showy in places where it probably wasn’t in the real-life story, Sorkin’s overly enthusiastic style fits with themes of the movie and his specific brand of dialogue creates a clear delineation between the deep and flawed people who make the show and the more modest caricatures they bring to life in front of cameras. This is where the movie shines brightest, where these two people are darn near Herculean in their ability to solve problems, fight for what’s important, and smooth talk their way to getting what they want, but at the end of the day, when the cameras stop rolling and the lights turn out, they are still flawed people barreling towards an ending they are too scared to face. Desi is madly in love with Lucille and Lucille is just as passionate about him, but Desi also can’t help but hurt her in ways that she cannot ignore. This tension between the genuine love they feel and their uncontrollable selfishness (admittedly much more so with Desi than Lucille) is where the tragedy of this story ultimately lies and where the story is at its strongest. This ends up being a double-edged sword however as the movie feels the need to be about more than just that and so it feels a bit scattershot and overstuffed with subplots and characters that don’t have the impact you would expect them to given the prominence of certain scenes. The big red elephant in the room is the Communist allegations which are what kicks off the movie and you assume it’s what the whole thing is going to be about, but that ends up fading into the background as the network stuff and the relationship between Lucy and Desi end up pushing it to the background. It ends up being relevant only to the start and the end of the movie which is a bit of a shame as the fervor surrounding communism in the mid-twentieth century is certainly a frightening chapter in television history, but it at least ends on a very strong note and sets us up for a pretty big gut punch right at the end of the movie. It’s certainly a flawed movie throughout, but it’s entertaining from the first frame to the final curtain call, and frankly, something that walks with confidence is more interesting to me than something safe; even if the former trips over itself a few times along the way.Continue reading “Cinema Dispatch: 2021 Catch Up (Part 2)”