“Lucy and Desi” (2022) – What’s your favorite “I Love Lucy” (1951 – 1957) episode?
Vitameatavegamin? The grape stomping/food fight? The chocolate factory?
Officially, these timeless, classic moments are “Lucy Does a TV Commercial” (S1E30), “Lucy’s Italian Movie” (S5E23), and “Job Switching” (S2E1), respectively. For this critic, the insane, maddening conveyor belt with an endless and frightening supply of candy is my number one!
“Listen, Ethel. I think we’re fighting a losing game,” Lucy (Lucille Ball) claims with traces of despair and terror in her voice.
Lucille Ball wasn’t the United States’ first comedienne, but she was the country’s leading television funny lady during the medium’s Golden Age.
For casual fans who enjoyed the show’s original run or grew up consuming oodles of reruns, some of us weren’t aware of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz’s history and their labor behind the cameras until writer/director Aaron Sorkin’s “Being the Ricardos” (2021) arrived in theatres. Well, I’ll speak for myself, anyway.
His movie covers one week during a taping of an “I Love Lucy” episode, “Ethel and Fred Fight” (S2E4), but Sorkin champions an effective deep dive into the real-life couple’s working and personal relationships. It’s an eye-opening picture that showcases Lucille’s command and vision of their sitcom’s material and Desi’s sharp, big-picture mind over the business and internal politics.
Sorkin – a masterclass storyteller – weaves an intricate, narrative view of this regal couple. In director Amy Poehler’s documentary, “Lucy and Desi”, the prominent, successful SNL alum applies her distinctive lens to Ms. Ball and Mr. Arnaz, one filled with gratitude.
Indeed, there’s no absolute need to see both movies, but “Being the Ricardos” and “Lucy and Desi” are splendid compliments for die-hard fanatics, casual devotees, and those with zero familiarity with the show. However, if you are new to “I Love Lucy”, see Poehler’s doc first. It’s jam-packed with seemingly hundreds of tidbits, facts, quips, comments, testimonials, and clips galore from their beloved program, personal lives, and business dealings.
Did you know that Lucille starred in four more Lucy-based programs after the original show, and Vivian Vance joined her for three, or that Desilu Studios housed the indoor sets for “Hogan’s Heroes” (1965 – 1971)? Not me.
The info and perpetual array of rich, insightful visuals flood the screen so quickly and so often, you’ll swear that Poehler constructed a speedy conveyor belt of her own.
During a Jan. 23, 2022 IndieWire interview, Amy discusses her approach to the film.
“(Lucille and Desi) are so famous and funny and successful, but over the years, they’ve become very 2D. They’ve almost (become) Halloween costumes and not people,” Poehler says and adds, “After learning and researching much more about (their relationship), I found it as inspiring as their work, frankly. So can we use that relationship as a structure in which to tell their story?”
Poehler does, especially with Lucille’s and Desi’s own voices. Years and years ago, “Ladies’ Home Journal” interviewed Lucille, and Amy explains that Ms. Ball liked the reporter, so she kept talking and left a wealth of audio. Desi’s numerous voiceovers are from his book’s audio and other home recordings.
Not only was Poehler inspired, but she interviews two uber-prominent female redheads (and a very famous blonde too) – who will not be named in this review – and they add their admiring thoughts about Lucille, a woman who paved the way for generations of comics.
Lucie Arnaz speaks frankly and candidly, too, takes a welcome lead at times, and opines about her parents and their ups and downs, including a disastrous European vacation, but also sunnier moments, like their partnership mentality.
“Lucy and Desi” is a blessing of a doc, but let’s also mention that several moments are laugh-out-loud funny. Still, this movie shows that Ball and Arnaz were much more than their beloved yesterdecade sitcom. Poehler and her team include so much that this 103-minute documentary requires repeat viewings, just like 180 episodes of “I Love Lucy”.
Hey, let’s watch Lucy pitch Vitameatavegamin again!
⭐⭐⭐ out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Directed by: Amy Poehler
Written by: Mark Monroe
Starring: Lucie Arnaz and a few mystery stars who we won’t mention
Runtime: 103 minutes
Image credits: Amazon Studios