In Being the Ricardos Aaron Sorkin takes a cerebral look at physical comedy, with a complex, multifaceted plot. The intellectual writer/director dramatizes the marital difficulties of Lucille Ball (Nicole Kidman) and Desi Arnaz (Javier Bardem), the rivalry between Ball and her I Love Lucy co-star Vivian Vance (Nina Arianda), the vicissitudes of television sponsorship and network protocols regarding sex. Ricardos also visualizes Ball’s creative process and deftly, cleverly cuts from color to black and white, with flashbacks that enable Sorkin to revisit classic scenes from the sitcom. Defying celluloid stereotypes, the Cuban-born Desi is portrayed as a shrewd businessman and innovative TV producer who helped introduce the three-camera setup for shooting sitcoms before live studio audiences. Sorkin’s biopic also tackles the heady, heavy topics of TV’s first major interethnic marriage and the Hollywood Blacklist.
The other feature that Sorkin’s look back at 1950s television most reminded me of was 2005’s Good Night, and Good Luck. But with one glaring difference: While George Clooney’s tribute to legendary broadcaster Edward R. Murrow illumines actual events, Being the Ricardos falsifies history. Sorkin’s two-hour, 11-minute movie is put under the magnifying glass here by a Hollywood Blacklist historian who consulted several other Blacklist scholars and film historians, sought repeatedly (futilely) to interview Sorkin and did extensive research into the subject online and in books, such as Victor Navasky’s Naming Names and Ceplair and Englund’s The Inquisition in Hollywood.