Category Archives: Jake Lacy

Being the Ricardos-2021

Being the Ricardos-2021

Director Aaron Sorkin

Starring Nicole Kidman, Javier Bardem

Scott’s Review #1,426

Reviewed May 7, 2024

Grade: B+

Aaron Sorkin who has written or directed such efforts as A Few Good Men (1992), Moneyball (2011), and The Trial of the Chicago 7 (2020) is typically associated with mainstream films.

While quality projects, he will never be accused of being a dangerous or auteur director. Since he is in the director’s chair for Being the Ricardos (2021) I knew going in that the film would be more or less a safe venture.

Ironically, the film that tells the story of famous comedian Lucille Ball played by Nicole Kidman, and her husband Desi played by Javier Bardem is not a comedy. It’s a drama mixed with a biography for those audiences unfamiliar with the duo explaining who they are.

For those of us at least mildly familiar with the iconic black and white show ‘I Love Lucy’ that pivoted television shows into the spotlight in the 1950s, Being the Ricardos serves as a slice of nostalgia.

The film depicts many aspects of the relationship of the pair and the challenges that went into producing the hit television show every week. But it also delves heavily into their rocky marriage, political smears, and cultural taboos that the show helped break.

Whoever thought that a pregnant character or a Cuban leading man would have stirred so much controversy?

But in the 1950s things were different and anyone even open to the idea of Communism faced career ruination.

Sorkin successfully treats the viewers to lengthy debates in the writers’ room, contentious star feuds, and the creative process in general.

More subtly, we see how a powerful woman in show business was the exception, not the rule, and how norms were very different for women.

The events of the film mostly surround one critical production week of their groundbreaking sitcom “I Love Lucy.”

J.K. Simmons and Nina Arianda play loveable Fred and Ethel, Lucy and Desi’s comical next-door neighbors in the sitcom. In real life, the actors despised each other frequently hurling insults at each other.

Comedy legend Linda Lavin makes a surprising appearance as Madelyn Pugh. The then-older television writer provides interviews along with other writers and producers to explain the earlier events.

Kidman is center stage as the icon. A brilliant actor in any role she is cast she does effectively depict the breathy voice and the mannerisms of Lucille Ball but she doesn’t look like her. Originally, Cate Blanchett was attached to the role and I’m very curious how she would have played her.

The obvious choice might have been television’s Debra Messing, brilliant on Will & Grace even portraying Lucy in one fantasy episode. My hunch is that Messing was too great a risk of lowering the film to sitcom standards and she isn’t a ‘movie star’ either.

And again, Being the Ricardos isn’t a comedy.

So, Kidman delivers the goods with some reservations mostly revealing what a strong woman Ball was and how she created many of the hilarious skits she is known for while not making the character seem like an idiot.

Bardem is also good in the role of Desi. He mixes conservative machismo with a thirst to be daring and challenge the mold. His womanizing would ruin their marriage but he was a savvy businessman and the film shows this.

An entertaining biopic that probably will be forgotten over time Being the Ricardos (2021) nonetheless shines a spotlight on the early days of television as a new medium and the hurdles its stars had to face in the woeful days of early apple pie and white picket fences that defined America.

Oscar Nominations: Best Actor-Javier Bardem, Best Actress-Nicole Kidman, Best Supporting Actor-J.K. Simmons

Obvious Child-2014

Obvious Child-2014

Director Gillian Robespierre

Starring Jenny Slate

Scott’s Review #387

70301275

Reviewed March 22, 2016

Grade: C+

Obvious Child is a 2014 independent comedy/drama nominated for a couple of independent spirit awards, that has mixed results.

It works on some levels but has an irritating underbelly and some unneeded components that ultimately give it a thumbs down.

The major success is star Jenny Slate, a real-life Brooklyn stand-up comic with immeasurable comic timing, who will hopefully become a rising star.

Slate starred in a 2009 short film of the same name before said film graduated to a full-length feature.

Slate stars as a twenty-eight-year-old Brooklyn-ite, who moonlights as a stand-up comic in a dingy bar while working in a desolate bookstore that is soon closing.

Conversely, her parents are successful- her mother is a famed professor. When she is unceremoniously dumped by her steady, she takes up with a handsome young man for a one-night stand filled with fun.

Predictably, she winds up pregnant and forges ahead with a plan to abort their child.

The abortion story is quite interesting since there is never a doubt about what will happen. Unlike films that make abortion the main focus of conflict, Obvious Child wisely does not- every character supports, and even encourages her to have the procedure, including her mother and best friend.

Having been written and directed by women, this is intentional and a way of empowering women, which is one of the high points. If one is on the fence about the topic of abortion or is a pro-life stance, this film may be very tough to watch as its slant is made crystal clear.

Slate is the other high point of the film.

She exudes confidence and comic range. Jewish and slightly awkward looking, she is not the leading-lady type and this arguably makes her wit and sarcastic language all the more comical. She is a natural in the comedy department and hope she will go far.

Two slight props for me worth mentioning are the wonderful mention of the classic film Gone with the Wind (1939) and the setting of Brooklyn. This was a great nod to film history and the setting gave Obvious Child an authentic New York City feel.

On the other hand, an utter annoyance about Obvious Child is the shameless and constant use of blatant and off-putting bathroom humor- not just once or twice, but numerous times.

How is this necessary to the plot? I can’t say, but surmise that it was deemed necessary by the filmmakers to show that females can give as good as males can.

Almost saying, “men can make poop jokes, why can’t women”? Why this is necessary for any film is beyond me and it gives Obvious Child a crass, ugly feel.

The film also has an unrealistic quality to it. Max is portrayed as prince charming. He can do no wrong, supports Donna in any decision she makes, is enamored by her sole being, and loves her unconditionally after only a one-night stand.

This would not happen in real life.

The fact that Donna is Jewish and quirky and Max is Christian and straight-laced is not explored. What conflicts would they undoubtedly face? Why were his parents not featured?

Highly uneven, with a great premise and an interesting slant on a still-controversial social issue, Obvious Child (2014) succeeds in the story department but fails in its uncalled-for use of potty humor to elicit cheap laughs.

Independent Spirit Award Nominations: Best Female Lead-Jenny Slate, Best First Feature

Carol-2015

Carol-2015

Director-Todd Haynes

Starring-Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara

Top 100 Films-#90

Scott’s Review #308

80058700

Reviewed December 27, 2015

Grade: A

My comparison would be that this film is the female version of Brokeback Mountain if you will.

Carol is a story of hidden romance and secret lives in the early 1950s, a time in which it was very difficult to lead an alternative lifestyle openly (or even in hiding!).

The film is a marvel in its honest storytelling, exquisite class, and its gracefulness, with excellent cinematography and a nice, heartwarming tale.

Carol is directed by Todd Haynes, a director known for films about doomed romances faced with societal challenges. Carol is a wonderful piece of work.

The film contains two equal female lead roles- Carol Aird (Cate Blanchett) is a gorgeous, sophisticated socialite.  She exudes confidence and style in everything that she does.

Always perfectly dressed, well made up, perfect fingernails, her mannerisms relay confidence, and control. She is married to a wealthy businessman, Harge (Kyle Chandler), who is madly in love with her, yet they are divorcing because of her “problem”.

The fact that Carol is a lesbian is known to Harge and they share somewhat of an understanding…..and also a five-year-old daughter. The divorce they are going through is difficult.

Therese Belevit (Rooney Mara), on the other hand, is the polar opposite of Carol.  Young, naïve, she is a part-time shopgirl, who is fascinated by photography. She dates men and goes to parties, living out a typical young girl’s life.

When Carol and Therese meet at the store where Therese works, they are immediately enamored with one another and a friendship develops. Both seem to be caught off guard and the chemistry between the two actresses sizzles.

The focus of the film is the budding romance between Carol and Therese, but also the societal differences that they face, not to mention the age difference between the two women. I found the chemistry quite evident and this is thanks to Blanchett and Mara.

Worlds apart, the two women somehow find their way to each other and form a bond. Their relationship is tender, gentle, and carefully laid out for the audience. They are neither animalistic nor barbaric in a sexual way, but rather- sweet.

When Therese takes a spontaneous car trip from New York to Chicago, leaving her boyfriend, Richard, perplexed, she is conflicted. He wants them to run off to Paris- Therese wants to be with Carol. He breaks up with Therese and accuses her of having a crush on Carol.

Therese and Carol’s romance is finally consummated in a mid-western hotel. It is New Year’s Eve and Todd Haynes chooses to shoot this scene in a romantic, spontaneous way. They are celebrating the holiday, but both are blue and vulnerable. It makes perfect sense that they would turn to one another at this moment.

The film delves into many different emotions that Carol and Therese face- love, glee, anger, rage, confusion, rejection, and loneliness. These adjectives and the aforementioned examples of the tone of the film are why it succeeds.

From an acting perspective, both Blanchett and Mara are great, but I am more partial to Blanchett’s performance. She embodies this character. From the way she confidently orders a martini dry with one olive, to how she brazenly approaches Therese, she is a woman in control. But faced with family issues she becomes vulnerable and we see her as a human being.

Besides the interesting story of a love faced with many challenges, the look of the film is grand. The sets, hairstyles, clothes, and makeup are all graceful and rich. To summarize- everyone looks great and it portrays a perfect picture of the 1950s.

A progressive Hollywood tale did very well, Carol showcases glamour, great acting, and sends a powerful message of acceptance and struggle during a difficult time to be “different”, to fulfill one’s life.

Oscar Nominations: Best Actress-Cate Blanchett, Best Supporting Actress-Rooney Mara, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Score, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design

Independent Spirit Award Nominations: Best Feature, Best Director-Todd Haynes, Best Female Lead-Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography (won)