I’m part of that millennial generation that only had a familiarity with classic TV shows mostly by word-of-mouth. I’ve only ever watched one episode of I Love Lucy in its entirety, and it was for a college course. Although, I do remember laughing quite hysterically while watching it; the episode featured Lucille Ball’s legendary “Vitameatavegamin” monologue. That recent Oscar-bait biopic about this couple, Being the Ricardos, was clearly trying way too hard to capture their dynamic and failed to do so, and now the same company, Amazon, has redeemed themselves in only a short amount of time. Lucy and Desi is a beautiful survey of how their lives impacted the television industry as well as America during a pivotal turning point in its history and prove why Lucille Ball in particular should continue to be celebrated by a new generation.
Not to say that this is a groundbreaking documentary or anything, because this still should have further emphasized the tension between the couple over the years, something that the Aaron Sorkin film admittedly did better. There’s also a lack of vulnerability with most of the interviewees as they talk about the famous couple, especially in the part when they talk about the conspiracy of Lucy being a communist. It could have gotten deeper into how the Red Scare and Civil Rights Movement each influenced the show, but I instead didn’t quite feel the social injustice this documentary wanted me to feel. It’s pretty obvious that this is Amy Poehler’s first time directing a documentary since it feels a bit too safe stylistically; I feel that there are some important character-defining details that Poehler left out, such as connecting the gender norms of the 1950s to the #MeToo movement of today.
So while this really is just an overall celebration of White America that glamorizes fame, the structure of the content should never leave you bored. The funniest bits of the show are represented, all of which are made even funnier by the fact that they’re shown out of their intended context! Yet it doesn’t forget to include the emotional touch, courtesy of Lucie Arnaz, Lucille Ball’s daughter, which is enough to give you such a strong understanding of what her relationship was like with her mother. It gives such a clear picture of what Lucy and Desi’s relationship was like over the years, even somehow enabling you to get to know the interviewees here who weren’t blood relatives of Lucy and Desi.
It helps that the historical photos played to Lucy’s tape recordings are always appropriately timed; between those twenty-something tape recordings, photographs, and home videos, this turns into such an amazingly intimate portrait as if you were looking through the photo album of a close friend, not two dead celebrities. You’ll be surprised of how much this gives you the Lucy behind the Lucy that we all thought we knew, even those who were alive while the show was on will pick up some interesting little-known facts; for instance, there were other types of performances that I never knew she did across live theater, film, and television.
You get to see so much appreciation for her ability to create such great physical comedy, but also recognizes that she had a scientific approach to her humor. Plus, it mentions how Buster Keaton was a mentor to her, which makes total sense to her success!
Overall, watching this documentary will open your eyes to just how groundbreaking I Love Lucy was; this show was the very reason why other sitcoms had a live audience, which contributes today to all the sitcoms that feature laugh tracks. Also, the couple later revolutionized the groundbreaking Desilu Productions, which later brought us other popular TV shows such as Mission: Impossible and Star Trek. The show proved to be important on a social level as well, challenging the gender norms of the time, back when the culture was about women pitting against each other, which works to challenge the gender norms of today.
So do you really think that I’m going to start watching this sitcom all because of an obscure documentary that hardly anyone has even heard of? You bet I am! Thanks, Lucy and Desi! I can’t wait to see what all the hullabaloo is about!
If there is a specific movie you’d like to see graded, or if you are interested in guest blogging for my site, please email me at Trevor@TrevorsViewOnHollywood.com for your recommendations.
Have a great weekend, and happy watching!