‘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 So why not make them characters of their own that can stand outside the historical document?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

I Think ‘Dune’ Gave Me a Message From the Deep

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Dune (CREDIT: Warner Bros. Pictures/Screenshot)

Starring: Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, Stellan Skarsgård, Dave Bautista, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Zendaya, David Dastmalchian, Chang Chen, Sharon Duncan-Brewster, Charlotte Rampling, Jason Momoa, Javier Bardem, Babs Olusanmokun, Benjamin Clementine

Director: Denis Villeneuve

Running Time: 156 Minutes

Rating: PG-13

Release Date: October 22, 2021 (Theaters and HBO Max)

I was fully asleep for about the last third of Dune. I thought I was just nodding off, but next thing I know, Timothée Chalamet was heading off into the desert with Zendaya and Rebecca Ferguson as the credits started to roll, and it sure didn’t feel like two and a half hours had passed.

If this sort of thing happened back when I used to work at a movie theater, I would just peek in the next day while working to catch what I missed. Luckily, HBO Max can now serve that purpose for WB flicks, so that’s what I did in this case. Also of note in terms of what happened the day after: I attended an event at my church during which a priest talked about how he’s fine with people nodding off during mass because that means they’re just quietly meditating. Ergo, I was just quietly meditating during the journey on Arrakis.

I don’t think Dune put me to sleep because it was boring. It wasn’t. Rather, it was just so dark and overwhelming. Those spaceships were HUGE! That all contrasts heavily with the protagonist, who’s awfully skinny and named simply Paul. I have an uncle named Paul, and he’s not traversing planets in a quest for the most valuable item in the universe. This is all to say, what we have here is a mix of accessible and gigantic.

Grade: Sure, I’ll Take Another Go-Round in the Desert

Movie Review: ‘Everybody Knows’ is Another Devastating But Enriching Work From Asghar Farhadi

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CREDIT: Teresa Isasi/Focus Features

Starring: Penélope Cruz, Javier Bardem, Ricardo Darín

Director: Asghar Farhadi

Running Time: 132 Minutes

Rating: R for Spanish Profanity

Release Date: February 8, 2019 (Limited)

If you sit down to watch Everybody Knows, you will probably wonder, “What is it that everybody knows?” I know I certainly did. About a half hour or so in, I had a pretty good idea of what it could be, then that suspicion grew into a more fully formed guess, and ultimately my powers of deduction proved to be precisely on point. I do not say this to toot my own horn, but rather, to explain that Everybody Knows makes the answers to its central mystery crystal clear. Far from being frustrated by obviousness, I appreciated that it guided me to exactly where it wanted me to go.

Having previously seen The Salesman and now this latest feature, I know the films of Asghar Farhadi to be about the trauma of outside forces testing the strength of familial units. In this case, the kidnapping of a teenage girl is the impetus for revealing one family’s most sacred secrets. Laura (Penélope Cruz) is a Spanish woman living in Argentina who has returned to her hometown with her two kids in tow for a wedding. When her daughter Irene (Carla Crampa) disappears, she is forced to resolve what lingers from the past with her childhood friend and former lover Paco (Javier Bardem). Farhadi has a knack for understanding that the potential paths of highly stressful situations can swing on a pendulum from further disaster to healing reconciliation. The resolution of Everybody Knows is profoundly, cathartically satisfying – the work of a master craftsman operating like clockwork.

Everybody Knows is Recommended If You Like: Asghar Farhadi’s filmography, The Vanishing

Grade: 4 out of 5 Family Secrets

This Is a Movie Review: mother!

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I don’t want to get into too many specifics, or really any specifics at all about mother!, even though I could just include a spoiler alert, and I imagine plenty of people reading this review have already seen it anyway. The plain truth is, this movie benefits particularly from going into it with as few preconceived notions as possible, perhaps more so than any other movie ever (give or take a Cabin in the Woods). The marketing has been so vague that anyone who feels like they’ve been misled really shouldn’t feel that way. For those who knew that they were getting into something unpredictable, there have been some criticisms that it is too heavy-handed, too unsubtle, and/or too cacophonous to effectively work as metaphor. And that may well be, but the whole thing is too deliriously energetic to not be enjoyable. This is… cinema.

One more note: if she weren’t already famous with her SNL persona, Kristen Wiig could easily establish a reputation as a character actress specializing in publicist/agent/manager roles.

I give mother! my acknowledgement that it exists.