Starring: Nicole Kidman, Javier Bardem, JK Simmons, Nina Arianda, Tony Hale, Jake Lacy, Clark Gregg, Alia Shankar, and Christopher Dunham.
Directed By Aaron Sorkin
Where I Watched It: Amazon
English Audio Description Available/: Yes
The Plot: Following primarily a tumultuous week on the set of I Love Lucy, the cast and crew attempt to put together an episode amidst claims that Lucy (Kidman) is a communist and Desi (Bardem) is a philanderer. The film also uses flashbacks and flash forwards to encapsulate us in the lives of one of America’s most famous and timeless on screen (and off screen) couples.
What Works: Aaron Sorkin is pretty much the grand master of screenwriting, and he proves his worth with a screenplay that manages to make good use of a normal runtime, and show us different sides of people who we already know so much about. It’s not like Lucy and Desi were recluses, or lived their lives away from the media. They were in the limelight, and for a while on the most watched program on television. Yet, Sorkin aims high and lands it with his terrific script and excellent directing that matches his fast paced style of writing.
To put it mildly, this film is electric, full of life and energy, even in its darkest and most dramatic moments. Even in moments where we find our characters pondering heavy life decisions, the film still feels like it has a rapidly beating pulse, possibly driven by the music of Desi Arnaz.
But this achievement also owes a lot to its cast, especially the core four from I Love Lucy. Nina Ariadna and JK Simmons may not be the physical carbon copies of their real life counterparts, but there’s no discounting that even though they are supporting players playing supporting actors, they make every scene they are in feel like it is about them. JK Simmons especially steals this movie. I wouldn’t be surprised at all by an Oscar nomination here.
As far as Nicole Kidman and Javier Bardem, again we have two actors trying to look like their real life counterparts and really manage to give you the idea that Lucy and Desi have been reincarnated here. Kidman, for her part, seems to have Lucy’s voice down, and her performance drives home just how brilliant Lucille Ball truly was. Bardem, who I’ve read many complaints about him not looking enough like Desi, instead makes up for it by getting the speech pattern down, and really honing in on everything that made Desi so special to begin with. He brings so much control and confidence to someone you may have thought simply just road coattails, or perhaps was insecure about Lucy’s fame, and puts any preconceived notions to rest. Whether we needed it or not, Bardem is hellbent on giving us a commanding performance, one that absolutely favors Desi.
What Doesn’t Work: I actually really loved this film. If I had to break it down and find one thing I’d do differently, I wouldn’t bother with the flash forward interviews. Ultimately, they don’t really do much to further what would still be a strong film without them, and since the original real life actors aren’t doing those scenes anyway, it just seems like an odd choice all around. Perhaps if those interjections had come from the Arnaz children we would have had something to gain, but this faux documentary style wasn’t really necessary. The film is just fine without it.
The Blind Perspective: So the description here, and the narrator are OK. I feel like I haven’t ever heard this voice before, and I have to be honest and say that the narration of the brief sex scene was oddly told in a somewhat clunky way. I know it must be hard to write descriptions for sex scenes, but in some of the projects I’ve had audio description during, they’ve managed better than just some good old thrusting. It’s a little thing, but it felt like the film didn’t want to describe the scene, because otherwise the description is solid. It just kind of tries to get through that scene as quickly as possible.
Final Thoughts: Actually one of my favorite films of the year. I really enjoyed every aspect of the film, from just the simple concept, to the screenplay, the directorial choices, the pacing, the acting, really just everything hit for me. I’m not sure if any of these actors truly resemble their counterparts, but their commitment made that factor somewhat irrelevant.
Final Grade: A