Tag Archives: Nicole Kidman

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

Birth-2004

Birth-2004

Director Jonathan Glazer

Starring Nicole Kidman, Cameron Bright

Scott’s Review #1,124

Reviewed March 18, 2021

Grade: B+

Due to the difficult nature of the film’s storyline, Birth (2004) is a tough sell to most cinema lovers.

A grown woman embarking on any sort of romance with a ten-year-old boy will turn off viewers, though can you even imagine if the genders were reversed? I was fascinated by the premise and the endless possibilities of a conclusion.

I’m not quite sure what I expected to ultimately happen but I felt slightly underwhelmed by the ending.

All in all, it is a daring effort that I wish had more payoff.

The first hour or so is extremely provocative.

Nicole Kidman excels at making the unbelievable material as believable as she can and the film is directed very well by Jonathan Glazer who gives it a haunting and mysterious Stanley Kubrick vibe.

The director would come into name recognition following his 2013 masterpiece Under the Skin.

The film opens with a voiceover of an unknown man, a professor, lecturing about his disbelief in reincarnation. The audience then sees the man jogging through New York City’s Central Park where he collapses and dies.

It takes Anna (Kidman) ten years to recover from the death of her husband, Sean, (the professor) but now she’s on the verge of marrying her boyfriend, Joseph (Danny Huston), and finally moving on. We suspect she may not be completely keen on marrying Joseph but most of their relationship is unclear. We know that she aches for Sean.

On the night of their lavish engagement party, a young boy named Sean (Cameron Bright) turns up, saying he is her dead husband reincarnated. At first, she ignores the child, thinking it’s a joke, but his knowledge of her former husband’s life is uncanny, leading her to slowly realize that he could be telling the truth.

Anna is conflicted to say the very least and Kidman effortlessly makes the audience believe that what is considered ridiculous might be true.

Is there a supernatural element here?

Her family members, led by her mother Eleanor (Lauren Bacall) are disbelieving and antagonistic towards the boy for disrupting Anna’s life.

An issue is that other than one supporting character, Clara (Anne Heche), who has a great opening sequence burying mysterious letters, the others have next to nothing to contribute to the story except to brood and get angry.

Bacall, in particular, is completely wasted in a role that could have been played by any other older actress.

Parallels to Rosemary’s Baby (1968) are hard not to make. Anna dons a similar pixie hair as Rosemary. They both reside in swanky old-style New York City high-rises that have a ghostly, haunting feeling. The ambiance is positive.

My favorite camera shot that Glazer includes is a lengthy one of Kidman’s Anna. In a close-up, the character’s reactions are on full display for what feels like several minutes. Kidman gets to show her tremendous range- tears, shock, realization.

I’ve noticed a similar shot in a handful of modern films and it’s an actor’s delight- a viewer’s too!

The finale, without giving much away, is interesting to a point. The big reveal involving Clara is intriguing until the viewer backtracks and tries to add up all the events. The fact is they don’t add up and I longed for something more concrete or believable.

There is not a good payoff.

Birth (2004) doesn’t always add up to satisfaction but it’s edgy, gloomy, and unpredictable and I enjoyed those facets enough to recommend it. This is not a mainstream film like Ghost (1990) with a similar theme- it’s much more cerebral and thought-provoking.

Kidman’s performance is the main draw here but it’s tough to find a film the actress is not great in.

Rabbit Hole-2010

Rabbit Hole-2010

Director John Cameron Mitchell

Starring Nicole Kidman, Aaron Eckhart

Scott’s Review #1,115

Reviewed February 23, 2021

Grade: A

Rabbit Hole (2010) is a raw and brutal film. I say that with major praise because it’s also a great film with much humanity and pathos. The dreariness of the film makes one relate to and empathize with the characters and perhaps recall a loved one who has died.

It’s truly brilliant if the viewer can withstand the sadness. I was able to tolerate the tone and immerse myself in it.

Thankfully, there are snippets of humor to offset the heavy drama.

Every film is not meant to be feel-good and enjoyable but they all should conjure emotions and Rabbit Hole succeeds in spades.

Yes, it’s a downer given the topic of the day is the loss of a four-year-old child but it’s a tragedy worth enduring to experience the powerful acting from its stars.

It’s a gem because it shows how people deal with and recover from loss if there is a way to cope with, live, and feel again without destroying oneself.

Eight months after the accidental death of their son, Howie (Aaron Eckhart) and Becca (Nicole Kidman) struggle to overcome their grief. He wants to hold on to everything that reminds him of Danny, while she would rather sell their home, relocate, and make a fresh start.

Trauma and conflict begin to appear in the relationship as Howie bonds with a member of his therapy group and Becca reaches out to a teenage boy with telling facial scars.

The drama is based on David Lindsay-Abaire’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play of the same name and the film version has the look and feel of a stage production.

Not much is shown before Danny’s death. I love this because it asks that I use imagination. The cleverness is that Danny was not killed by a drunk driver or a speeding car.

It was an accident and this point feels genuine.

The pain is watching a once-loving couple crumble from the weight of the devastation they have been dealt. Neither parent is to blame but do they blame each other? Do they resent each other because each reminds the other of Danny’s death?

A pivotal and necessary story point is watching Becca and Howie become drawn to other people, some of them surprising. Becca bonds with the teenage driver of the car that killed Danny. Howie nearly is drawn into a lurid affair with Gabby (Sandra Oh) whom he connects with at group therapy.

Is it healthier for Becca and Howie to go their separate ways? Do they stand a chance?

Most can ask themselves the same question as their partners if faced with devastating qualities. How does one pick up the pieces alone as part of a couple?

Kidman is breathtaking in her ability to generate the emotions she does. She was recognized with an Academy Award nomination. It’s terrific, but Aaron Eckhard, forever an underappreciated actor missed out on a nomination.

This is a shame because he is just as good as Kidman. Together, they are flawless, building and playing off the emotions and feelings of the other.

A film about grief, Rabbit Hole (2010) bravely tells the story of how an incident can ravage not only a relationship but our inner being turning us into someone we don’t know. This is a terrifying thought and the stellar acting and pacing only make us feel the pain others can suffer.

Oscar Nominations: Best Actress-Nicole Kidman

The Hours-2002

The Hours-2002

Director Stephen Daldry

Starring Nicole Kidman, Julianne Moore, Meryl Streep

Scott’s Review #803

Reviewed August 17, 2018

Grade: A

The Hours (2002) is a film containing the ultimate in acting riches. With names like Nicole Kidman, Meryl Streep, and Julianne Moore associated with the film this is not surprising.

Not solely belonging to the ladies, however, Ed Harris, in particular, is dynamic in his role as are all the other males who appear in the film.

Told in three different sections in chronological order, but going back and forth, the stories all share connections via the novel Mrs. Dalloway, written by Virginia Woolf.

One of the best films of the decade!

Each segment of the film takes place within a single day, but decades apart. Wisely, director Stephen Daldry switches between the stories frequently leaving sort of a cliffhanger, making the drama more compelling and spicy.

In 1923, a depressed Virginia Woolf is portrayed by an unrecognizable Nicole Kidman in a role that won her the Best Actress Oscar.

Woolf resides outside of London and struggles to complete her novel amid nervous breakdowns and the watchful eye of her husband, who is aware of her mental pain.

In 1951, Laura Brown (Julianne Moore) seemingly has it all, living the “American Dream”. Residing in a nice neighborhood with a loving husband, she is pregnant with her second child, spending the days at home raising her young son, Richie, whom she is very close to yet does not understand.

After a fleeting lesbian dalliance with a neighbor, Laura goes off to a hotel with bottles of pills, intending to kill herself. She changes her mind after reading Woolf’s novel and dozing off, deciding instead to make a different decision.

Finally, in 2001, Clarissa (Meryl Streep), is bisexual and in a same-sex relationship. She lives with Richard (Harris), whom she dated in college, now the best of friends. He is gay, stricken with the AIDS virus, and close to committing suicide as he plans to jump out of a window.

This story (present times) is crucial to the film because it involves two characters from the 1951 story. These characters intersect with others in a touching and heart-wrenching way.

The greatest parts of The Hours are the brilliant acting and the richly written storytelling. Arguably, Kidman, Streep, and Moore all could have won Oscars for their performances, and I must mention that as brilliant as Kidman is (she is the sole Oscar recipient), and Streep is just universally good, I would have given the Oscar to Moore- the standout in my opinion.

Glamorous and intelligent, warm to her son, she makes a monumental and controversial decision. The character should not be sympathetic- yet she is. This is a testament to Moore’s infusing the character with confidence, reasonable thoughts, and even some empathy. We finally understand why she does what she does.

May I boast for a moment about Harris’s performance? Richard, once known as Richie as a kid (this will give something away), has lived a difficult life.

Abandoned, wounded, and suffering much loss, he is a tragic figure, pained beyond belief. His suffering is so monumental that we almost welcome his demise, and Harris offers so much of himself in this difficult role. He is both physically and emotionally hurt and Harris portrays this in spades.

Uniquely, all three stories work independently of each other. Yes, characters from one appear in another, but they are like well-crafted vignettes. Similarly, they each begin with breakfast, then involve the planning of a party or celebration of some sort, and culminate in sadness.

Yet, the film does not feel like a downer or preachy in any way, but rather, good, solid, humanistic story-telling, which I adore.

Sure, the film is considered a drama, but it also contains multiple gay or bisexual characters and therefore must be included in the chambers of LGBT filmmaking.

With an A-list cast, the film helps lead the charge (successfully so) to bring more rich LGBT films to center stage and garner mainstream audiences.

The great aspect of The Hours is that it is a mainstream film- a good solid drama.

Based on a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Michael Cunningham, The Hours (2002) does not try to draw parallels with each story or necessarily connect them in an obvious fashion.

Rather, the film version provokes thought both with LGBT and feminist approaches. Each female central character lives in a world run by men, as Woolf argues in her novel.

The film brilliantly adapts the novel and brings it to large audiences in a fantastic, riveting fashion.

Oscar Nominations: 1 win-Best Picture, Best Director-Stephen Daldry, Best Actress-Nicole Kidman (won), Best Supporting Actor-Ed Harris, Best Supporting Actress-Julianne Moore, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Score, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing

Malice-1993

Malice-1993

Director Harold Becker

Starring Alec Baldwin, Nicole Kidman, Bill Pullman

Scott’s Review #765

Reviewed May 29, 2018

Grade: B+

Malice (1993) is only one of a slew of husband and wife-themed thrillers to emerge from the early 1990’s- Unlawful Entry (1992), Sleeping with the Enemy (1991), and Deceived (1991) are other similar films that made lots of money during this time.

This genre of slick filmmaking was popular as the new decade emerged and more complex story-telling graced the screens.

The myriad of twists and turns are both a positive and a negative to this film.  Keeping the audience guessing and on pins and needles is a key success, eliciting a fun sort of tone, as well as the tremendous star power of the casting (George C. Scott and Anne Bancroft are big-time heavies).

Then again a few of the plot points become red herrings and thereby meaningless and the overall plots, and endless subplots, become way too complex than they need to be.

In a plot that is dizzying to explain, Associate Dean Andy Safian (Bill Pullman) and his wife Tracy (Nicole Kidman) are embarking on a life together in Massachusetts as they purchase a grand Victorian house and plan to begin a family.

As a serial killer stalks the campus where Andy works and implausibly results in him being the prime suspect, Tracy experiences health turmoil and is operated on by cocky yet brilliant Dr. Jed Hill (Alec Baldwin).

When dire events occur the plot escalates and the motivations of the main characters are questioned as truths and deceptions unravel.

When I first saw Malice in 1993 (in fact I saw it twice the same year), I adored the multitude of plot points and devices. The film had the same effect as a speeding roller coaster ride- with endless twists and story revelations.

And to be fair the film holds up pretty well, never seeming dated or of its time like many mainstream films. The two startling reveals- Tracy and Jed being in cahoots and the mysterious eye witness living next door being blind, are clever bits of writing that immerse the audience on many levels.

The acting is top-notch- Kidman plays good and evil oh so well and Bancroft’s cameo as Tracy’s mother is Oscar-worthy. The chemistry between Pullman, Kidman, and Baldwin, and Pullman’s “nice guy” to Baldwin’s “jerk” work quite well as the overlapping relationships play out.

Small yet meaningful roles by Bebe Neuwirth, Peter Gallagher, and Gwyneth Paltrow add layers to the wonderful casting.

And who can forget the often parodied scene where arrogant Dr. Jed launches into a monologue where he claims to be infallible and that he is God? This scene received tons of publicity and is arguably the defining moment of the film.

However, Malice’s strengths also sometimes become its weaknesses. As events go along the plot becomes too confusing. The school serial killer plot soon becomes a red herring as we realize it has little to do with the central plot- the Tracy/Jed alliance- except only to raise parenting questions.

Therefore the big reveal of who the killer becomes for naught. It’s the creepy janitor named Earl(Tobin Bell) hardly a surprise.

Furthermore, after the film ends and the viewer plays events back to make them add up, he or she will likely give up in frustration.

Malice is an above-average entry in a popular genre- who doesn’t like a good, solid thriller? With a talented cast and enough good medical thrills to balance with a college campus whodunit, there is plenty to please everyone who views this film.

Yes, some of the writing is preposterous and tough to believe, but Malice (1993) is a movie meant to escape with, sit back, and enjoy.

Eyes Wide Shut-1999

Eyes Wide Shut-1999

Director Stanley Kubrick

Starring Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman

Top 100 Films #99

Scott’s Review #464

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Reviewed August 14, 2016

Grade: A

Eyes Wide Shut is a film that I saw in theaters upon its release in 1999 and found fascinating, to say the least. I have watched the film twice more in the years following and it is even more fascinating today- it gets better and more nuanced with each viewing.

It is not an easy film to follow or explain but is rich in mystery and psychologically challenging.

A huge Stanley Kubrick fan, this film is an eerie, plodding, cerebral psychological/sexual thriller.

The creepy piano score is very effective, and Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman are both excellent as affluent, yet restless, thirtysomethings living in New York City.

Cruise plays Bill, a successful doctor, and Kidman his gorgeous wife, both sexually restless and escaping into fantasy and otherwise real dalliances with other partners as they bicker about fidelity and jealousy as they lounge in their underwear and smoke pot.

It’s a film about relationships, temptation, and desire, and does not always make perfect sense, but boy will it leave you thinking.

The supporting characters are some of the most interesting I’ve ever seen as they compel and mystify and one wonders how they fit with the main characters.

The naughty Long Island orgy is as bizarre and surreal as one can imagine.

The movie reminds me somewhat of The Ice Storm (1997), Magnolia (1999), and Mulholland Drive (1992), which is the ultimate compliment as the aforementioned are film masterpieces.