Monday, December 13, 2021

A Marriage Inside a Marriage: Being the Ricardos

Nicole Kidman and Javier Bardem in Being the Ricardos.

I’ve always thought that you can’t predict when the talented, wildly erratic Nicole Kidman will settle down in a role and truly make it her own. But, watching her as Lucille Ball in writer-director Aaron Sorkin’s smashing Being the Ricardos, I realized that there is one constant in her career: she’s always convincing when she plays a real-life character. Her portrayal of the journalist Martha Gellhorn in Philip Kaufman’s TV movie Hemingway and Gellhorn (with Clive Owen as Hemingway) was a revelation: she seemed to locate the Barbara Stanwyck side of herself. As the broadcaster Gretchen Carlson in Bombshell, she combined glamor, bristling intelligence and the sort of vulnerability you always expected in the sex-bomb roles she played early in her career but that came across only erratically. (Probably because she was miscast in them: her Marilyn Monroe-ish looks were deceptive – she was no wounded sex kitten. Thrown together, the parts came out wrong.) And in the overlooked Lion, based on Saroo Brierley’s memoir, she was heartbreaking as the white adoptive mother of Indian boys, one of them damaged, whose self-destructiveness drives her into her own psychic darkness.