Being the Recardos – Review

Nicole Kidman and Javier Bardem, as Lucy and Desi

I go to the movies fairly frequently. I generally avoid the “movies of the month” at the local metroplex, but prefer either the “classics” shown there occasionally, or the smaller produced movies. Last night, for example, I went to see The Matrix (1999) which is apparently being reshown on the big screen. I found it to be just as entertaining as it was 22 years ago, although some of the aspects are still perplexing. I’ve heard that House of Gucci is pretty good, and may see that in the upcoming weeks. I think Lady Gaga is very talented; having seen her in a biography movie a few years ago.

I saw Belfast a few weeks ago – a great movie on the origins of “The Troubles” in 1969 at Northern Ireland.

I just finished Being the Recardos today. It tells the story of one tumultuous week during the making of an episode in Season 2 1 * (1952) of I Love Lucy.

Of the few movie reviews I have done, I have always faced a dilemma of what to tell the readers – without being a spoiler. I will simply say that during this week, there was a press article that threatened to derail not only I Love Lucy, but the career of Lucille Ball.

And within this frame is a wonderful look inside the making of a sitcom – in this case, what would be known as the prototype TV sitcom, whose techniques would be copied to this day.

Today, a successful sitcom will claim a weekly audience of 10 million. At its height of popularity, 70 million Americans tuned in to see Lucy and Ricky. And remember, the population of the US was much smaller – less than half.

Things that impressed me? From the first day, involving a “table read” – involving all of the actors, writers, and producers, to hammer out a script.

Professional Comedy is Hard Work

I’ve enjoyed various programs (Comedians in Cars Having Coffee) and YouTube interviews in which Jerry Seinfeld talks about the business of comedy.  I can remember him showing all of the notes he has written during his career as a stand-up comedian – notes for which he used as a basis for his funny outlook on life. The notes were about 50 feet long in small piles.

And he said something I thought interesting: I’m paraphrasing, but “Almost anyone can make someone laugh at one time or another. When you are doing stand-up, you have to make people laugh at 8PM Tuesday on the stage”.

During the movie’s day 1 of the table read, they spent hours discussing a scene that would, on film, last all of 10 seconds. And when shown, people still laugh about it 70 years later. The producer had his idea, the director had his, and Lucy, played by Nicole Kidman, persevered with her idea.

Lucille Ball was really the master of physical comedy. There are so few that can really do it well. The movie made me realize that with physical comedy, the body actions are the primary humor vehicle, and not the dialogue.

The movie dealt with the personal problems Ball had with husband (and producer) Desi Arnaz. “When they aren’t tearing each other’s heads off, they are tearing each other’s clothes off”, was the way one character described their relationship.

Among the producers are the children of Desi and Lucy, Desi Arnaz Jr and Lucie Arnaz. Lucie thinks as a portrayal of her mother, Kidman was perfect. I think all of the cast did great, including Javier Bardem, who played Desi.

I gave it 9 stars on IMBb.

Since it was produced by Amazon Studios, it will start streaming on December 21. But see it on the big screen at selected theaters, if you can.

** Based on the scenes they were recreating the episode was #22 of Season 1 – – Fred and Ethel Fight, first aired on March 10, 1952

Some selected links:

How Lucille Ball saved Star Trek

Lucy shares her favorite episode and memories

Top 10 I Love Lucy Moments

Why, at 70 years, we still love Lucy

12-14-21 1259 : What Lucie Arnaz thinks about this movie

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