During one critical production week of their groundbreaking sitcom I Love Lucy, Lucille Ball (Nicole Kidman) and Desi Arnaz (Javier Bardem) are threatened by shocking personal accusations, a political smear, and cultural taboos surrounding the depiction of her real life pregnancy on screen. The film explores the couple's complex romantic and professional relationship at the time. "Ricardo" refers to the family name of the main characters of I Love Lucy.
The cast also includes Jake Lacy, Alia Shawkat, J. K. Simmons, Tony Hale, Clark Gregg, Nina Arianda, and Ronny Cox. The film was released in theaters on December 10, 2021 and on Prime Video on December 21.
This film provides examples of the following tropes:
- The Alcoholic: William Frawley was a notorious and self-admitted one, although he claimed to always be sober when it came time for rehearsals and filming.
- Anachronic Order: The film is told in Flashback by the older versions of executive producer Jess Oppenheimer and writers Madeline Pugh and Bob Carroll, and during the week of the show that's being discussed, we also see flashbacks to how Lucille and Desi met, their careers to that point, and the creation of I Love Lucy.
- Anachronism Stew:
- The term showrunner was not in use at the time I Love Lucy was made.
- References to the show being taped are also inaccurate, as the series was famously shot on film. Videotape wasnt used to record sitcoms until much later.
- Artistic License History: The film takes many liberties with the actual timeline of historical events for the sake of drama:
- When Lucille is in the waiting room of the RKO executive who would tell her she's being dropped from the studio, there are movie posters on the wall, one of them for Stromboli. Stromboli came out in 1950, while Lucille was dropped from her RKO contract in 1942. Also, the studio executive compares her to Judy Holliday, who wouldn't become known until 1950 thanks to Born Yesterday.
- "Fred and Ethel Fight", the episode being filmed during the events of this movie, took place in Lucy and Ricky's first apartment, but in this film it takes place in their new apartment. It was also produced during the first season of the show, not the second as depicted here. The actual episode that they were filming during the red scare week was "The Girls Go Into Business, which was the first episode produced for the third season.
- While Lucille did testify in front of the House Un-American Activities Committee (see Red Scare below) and was accused of being a Communist, that happened in 1953, a year after she announced to the network she was pregnant, not during the same week.
- There is no such director named Donald Glass; the real director of "Fred and Ethel Fight" was Marc Daniels. And despite the movie painting this Donald Glass as a guest director who hadn't been with the show for a while, Marc Daniels had been directing the show from the beginning but left at the very start of 1953.
- At one point, Lucille yells Dont gaslight me! at Desi. Although Gaslight, the film that originated the term, came out in 1944, use of gaslighting as a term was not recorded until the 60s and 70s, and even then only by academics. It would not enter wider public use until the 80s and 90s.
- Desi Arnaz did address the audience before the filming about Lucille Ball's communist ties, stating that the 'only thing red about Lucy is her hair, and even that is not legitimate'. However, there was no surprise phone call from J. Edgar Hoover clearing Lucille Ball of all wrong doing.
- Bittersweet Ending: Lucille is vindicated of any involvement with the communist party, and the studio audience greets her with a glowing reception. However, she later gets confirmation from Desi that he cheated on her, and the ending text states that Lucille filed for divorce the morning after her final show with Desi.
- Cut His Heart Out with a Spoon: When Lucille asks Jess to give Desi an executive producer credit, Joss instead tries to tell Desi how important he is to the show by reminding him he's the "I" in I Love Lucy. Desi laughs at this, but pulls Jess aside, and tells Jess if he ever patronizes him again, Desi will reach into his throat and pull his lungs out.
- Deliberately Monochrome: Scenes from I Love Lucy episodes (usually framed as in an Imagine Spot) are shot in black and white like the show.
- Heroic BSoD: While filming an episode of I Love Lucy, Lucille goes motionless with a blank stare (which was not part of the script) when Desi enters the scene. Then she acts as if it was All Part of the Show.
- Hide Your Pregnancy: In-Universe - one of the stories here involves when Lucille reveals to CBS, the show's staff, and the sponsors that she's pregnant, and she and Desi want that to be a story on the show, while also acknowledging up till they make that revelation, they'll put her behind chairs, counters, and so on.
- It Will Never Catch On: Lucille says she had no idea that I Love Lucy was going to become a hit.
- Lipstick Mark: Lucy accuses Desi of cheating after finding Desi's handkerchief smeared with lipstick. Desi reminds Lucy that she smeared his hankie herself but no, that was a different handkerchief with a different shade of lipstick, which she's already found.
- Lurid Tales of Doom: The tabloids and newspapers speculate heavily on the Lucille-Desi couple and characters discussing them.
- Old-Fashioned Fruit Stomping: The film revisits the I Love Lucy grape-stomping scene by showing how the idea evolved in the writers' room. Lucy Arnaz suggests that her character lose an earring in the tub of grapes, and we see Lucy Ricardo flinging herself down and pawing through the stomped grapes in a frenzy.
- One-Steve Limit: Averted; the two CBS executives who approach Lucille about doing a TV show with her are both named David, and Lucille, of course, can't resist commenting on that.
- O.O.C. Is Serious Business: After running them through endless rehearsals, when getting ready to do the live taping of the show, Lucille says this to co-stars William Frawley and Vivian Vance:Lucille: When all is said and done...you're both great actors.
William: Okay, you're scaring the shit out of me.
Vivian: I was gonna say.
- Red Scare: One of the many things adding to Lucy's stress is media speculation that she is a Communist after receiving some scrutiny from HUAC, something that did happen in Real Life.
- Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!: Desi does this twice. First, when CBS objects to the pregnancy storyline, he has his assistant send a telegram to the head of Phillip Morris (the show's sponsor), and they send a telegram back saying he should be allowed to do what he wants. Second, after Lucille is accused of being a Communist in the newspapers, even though she was cleared by the House of Un-American Activities, Desi has his assistant make a call, after which he forgoes the usual introduction to the live taping of the show, instead taking a call from J. Edgar Hoover, whom he has announce to the studio audience that Lucille is not a Communist.
- Time-Shifted Actor: Jess Oppenheimer, Madelyn Pugh and Bob Carroll Jr. are respectively portrayed by Tony Hale, Alia Shawkat and Jake Lacy, while their older selves are portrayed by John Rubinstein, Linda Lavin and Ronny Cox.