‘Being the Ricardos’ Has Some ‘Splainin’ to Do

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Being the Ricardos (CREDIT: Glen Wilson/Amazon Content Services LLC)

Starring: Nicole Kidman, Javier Bardem, J.K. Simmons, Nina Arianda, Tony Hale, Alia Shawkat, Jake Lacy, John Rubinstein, Linda Lavin, Clark Gregg, Nelson Franklin, Robert Pine, Christopher Denham

Director: Aaron Sorkin

Running Time: 125 Minutes

Rating: R for Language That the Censors Usually Don’t Allow You to Say

Release Date: December 10, 2021 (Theaters)/December 21, 2021 (Amazon Prime Video)

What is Being the Ricardos all about? I mean that both in terms of this movie’s plot and in the ontological sense. If Aaron Sorkin is to be believed, it’s a combination of kinda-sorta being exposed as a Communist, marital strife, and a fight to control the creative direction of I Love Lucy. Any one of those topics would be enough to center a movie around. But in the movie that we’ve got, they’re all kind of fighting for attention. I suppose these matters can all co-exist, but they don’t do so particularly gracefully in this case. The relationship and professional conflicts feel genuine but standard-issue, while the red scare pretty much fizzles out immediately. (Maybe that was the point?)

It must be said that Nicole Kidman and Javier Bardem really don’t look or sound anything like Lucy and Desi. This did not bother me at all! In fact, I think I prefer this anti-accuracy approach in a biopic. These aren’t the real people after all, but representations of those real people. So why not make them characters of their own that can stand outside the historical document? Alas, I suspect that Kidman and Bardem actually were trying to achieve something close to mimicry. It all kind of gets stuck in the unremarkable middle.

One thing about this movie that I did kind of like is the series of interviews from some unspecified future date that serve to frame the 1950s scenes. Tony Hale, Jake Lacy, and Alia Shawkat play a few of the Lucy writers, while their older versions are filled in by John Rubinstein, Ronny Cox, and Linda Lavin, respectively. The check-ins with the senior crew are a little surreal (probably accidentally [or perhaps not?]), thanks to how little is explained about their circumstances. Like, where are these people? What year is it supposed to be? (None of the real-life versions are still alive anymore.) Is this supposed to be for some sort of documentary? Are they being held hostage? I DON’T want to know the answers to any of these questions!

Being the Ricardos is Recommended If You Like: Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip

Grade: 2.5 out of 5 Wahhhhs

Movie Review: ‘Captain Marvel’ is a Blast of Low-Key Wonder

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CREDIT: Marvel Studios

Starring: Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Jude Law, Ben Mendelsohn, Annette Bening, Djimon Hounsou, Lee Pace, Lashana Lynch, Gemma Chan, Clark Gregg

Directors: Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck

Running Time: 124 Minutes

Rating: PG-13 for Sci-Fi Action Violence That Tends to Cause Nosebleeds

Release Date: March 8, 2019

It’s been a while since I have felt consistently sustained excitement for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I’m a fan of superheroes, and Marvel in particular, but I’m a bigger film buff, and I often find myself in a weird liminal space where I want to have more unbridled emotions for these movies, but it is hard to feel that way about a series sticking to a formula that is so much about ticking off obligatory long-term checkpoints. Captain Marvel does not burst free of that formula, but it has enough of its own magic to make it the first MCU movie in quite some time in which I left the theater wanting to re-watch it. It could have just been the way it happened to hit me on one particular day, but I think it has also something to do with its vibe of ignoring all the noise and getting on with it mission.

The plot is a little too complicated to easily synopsize, which Disney and Marvel are surely happy about, as they do not want us spoiling any of their MCU flicks, particularly this one, as it is uniquely dependent on backstory reveals and memory retrieval. Suffice it to say then that Vers (Brie Larson) is an intergalactic warrior fighting for the race known as the Kree, but she is also plagued by visions of a past life as U.S. Air Force fighter pilot Carol Danvers. The Kree are stuck in a long-term struggle against the shapeshifting Skrulls, which leads Vers to Earth in 1995 in a race for a powerful energy source. This is a typical McGuffin-focused Marvel film, but this particular McGuffin is unusually resonant, touching on themes of refugees and the perils of deep psychological deception.

Captain Marvel is also your standard MCU movie insofar as it builds to a climax with an unengaging, undistinguished action set piece. But luckily, that is not the main attraction. Vers teams up with a pre-eye patch Nick Fury, resulting in a buddy flick that serves as Samuel L. Jackson’s biggest showcase thus far in this franchise. His and Larson’s dynamic is one of instant respect that still leaves plenty of room for clowning around as they save the universe. That feeling is matched by a strong sense overall of the film being aesthetically tuned in. I cannot think of any other superhero movie that features a steady stream of crickets chirping amidst characters talking outside.

Captain Marvel is not massively revolutionary. While it may be the first MCU movie fronted by a female hero, it is not about femininity the way that Black Panther is about blackness. But while it does not respond hard to the big questions, it gets so many of the little things right.

Captain Marvel is Recommended If You Like: Top Gun, Nineties Rock, Friendly and Intelligent Aliens Who Speak English or At Least Have Universal Translators

Grade: 4 out of 5 Supreme Intelligences