Despite Debra Messing and everybody else doubting that Kidman could convincingly play Lucille Ball in Aaron Sorkin’s upcoming film, early responses describe her portrayal as “incredible” and “very impressively acted,” while praising her for capturing “the spirit and vigor” of the comedy icon.
“Kidman embodies the essence of Lucille Ball, especially in her mannerisms during the rehearsals and filming of episodes,” Variety editor Clayton Davis wrote about her turn after a screening in Los Angeles this week. “She very well may break your heart, demanding the viewer’s sympathy and a best actress nomination may seem almost certainly in the cards for her.”
The Oscar winner stars alongside Javier Bardem’s Desi Arnaz in the biopic, which takes place amid a particularly chaotic week during the heyday of “I Love Lucy.” The beloved TV duo is “threatened by shocking personal accusations, a political smear and cultural taboos,” per the official description, with the film promising a “revealing glimpse of the couple’s complex romantic and professional relationship” offscreen.
But early footage from the film sparked some concern as to whether Kidman was the right fit for the role, given she bears little resemblance to Ball and is better known for her dramatic performances. Many fans even suggested the role be recast with Debra Messing, who began openly campaigning for it on social media.
The controversy prompted Sorkin to defend Kidman earlier this week, explaining that “finding an actress who looked like Lucille Ball wasn’t important to me,” as the film only features “less than three minutes” of footage within the world of the iconic sitcom.
“We made this movie during COVID, and so in Zooming with Nicole and Javier and everyone else, I’d make it very clear to them that I am not looking for a physical or vocal impersonation of these people,” he told The Hollywood Reporter. “Leading up to the first rehearsal, I’d write to them every day, ‘Just play the characters who are in the script.’ I know that Nicole was working on Lucy’s voice for a while, and I wanted to relieve her of that.”
“I’m certain that when people see the movie, they’ll leave feeling that Nicole has made a very solid case for herself, but moreover, I’ve found that you can really leverage low expectations,” Sorkin added.
And it looks like he was right, as critics deemed Kidman an almost certain contender in the awards season and lauded her performance, as well as Sorkin’s storytelling.
“If you want impersonations, #BeingtheRicardos might not be for you,” one person wrote. “If you want performances that capture the spirit and soul of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, you’re in for a treat.”
Below, read more critic reactions to “Being the Ricardos,” which is set to premiere in theaters Dec. 10 before debuting on Amazon Prime Video 11 days later.