BEING THE RICARDOS*CUT TO THE CHASE*
NOTE: This spoiler was submitted by Jeremy
The film opens with former “I Love Lucy” staff members speaking before a camera as though it were a documentary. Executive producer/head writer Jess Oppenheimer (John Rubinstein) and staff writers Bob Carroll Jr (Ronny Cox) and Madelyn Pugh (Linda Lavin) discuss the events that unfolded during a particularly tumultuous week during the show’s production, since their main star was accused of communism.
Lucille Ball (Nicole Kidman) and Desi Arnaz (Javier Bardem) were known for their roles on the show as Lucy and Ricky Ricardo, but those closest to them knew about their chaotic relationship. One day when Desi comes home, Lucille accuses him of cheating based on an article she read that speculates Desi was seen with another woman. He defends himself and says that the photo was from a past summer retreat. Just as Lucille and Desi engage in the throes of passion, they overhear a radio report in which Lucille is accused of being a member of the communist party.
Monday, Table Read – The cast and crew are gathered as they wait for Lucille and Desi to show up. Co-stars Vivian Vance (Nina Arianda) and William “Bill” Frawley (JK Simmons), who play Ethel and Fred Mertz, are discussing how a child actor from another show is a communist. The younger Jess (Tony Hale), Bob (Jake Lacey), and Madelyn (Alia Shawkat) all sit anxiously. Lucille and Desi are meeting with their lawyers to discuss Lucille’s alleged affiliation. She explains that 20 years earlier when voting, she innocently checked the box because of her grandfather’s association with communism. They are allowed to continue filming their show, and Desi vows to not let anything happen to Lucille. The couple then joins their crew to sit down for the reading. Lucille makes criticisms about the joke setup for the episode, which annoys the writers.
The older Jess, Bob, and Madelyn discuss how Lucille and Desi met. He starred in a film version of a maligned Broadway show, “Too Many Girls”, and Lucille was cast in the film, looking unrecognizable because she had makeup on from a different film. The two later chatted, and Desi became enamored with Lucille. He took her to dance rumba and later went home to make love. In the morning, Lucille called her fiance to call him out for being a cheater and saying that she is leaving him.
After the reading, Bill asks Desi if he was scared when communists came for his family in his native Cuba, as Bill thinks Desi doesn’t scare easily. Desi disagrees and says there’s a lot that scares him. He then goes to meet with Lucille, thinking she is still concerned about the communism claims, but she is dwelling on the claims that Desi is cheating on her.
Tuesday, Blocking Rehearsal – Lucille and Desi announce to the staff that they are expecting a child. Despite the concern about showcasing a pregnant woman on national television, they congratulate the couple. Lucille and Desi then notice an episode the writers are working on called “Lucy Goes To Italy”, in which the Ricardos and Mertzes go on vacation to Europe. Lucille envisions that scene from the script where Lucy makes wine by stomping grapes. Desi wants to replace that episode with one where Lucy announces her pregnancy, but Jess tells them that CBS and the Philip Morris company won’t allow it. After Lucille leaves the room, Desi argues with Jess and Madelyn because of Lucille’s criticisms with the script.
The older staff comments on how Lucille and Desi eloped, but they weren’t in a happy relationship since they never saw each other due to their busy work schedules (Lucille in the studio and Desi playing with his band at nightclubs). Desi eventually invites Lucille to watch him perform.
Wednesday, Camera Blocking – Lucille and Desi meet with the lawyers again to discuss the matter of her pregnancy being portrayed on the show, with them not wanting to go through with it, but Desi decides to take it to Alfred Lyons, Philip Morris’s Chairman of the Board to get his opinion on the matter. Meanwhile, Madelyn brings Vivian breakfast despite that not being her job, and Vivian figures that it was a move on Lucille’s part since Vivian has been losing weight from a diet, and the implication is that Lucille doesn’t want anyone looking better than her onscreen. Lucille later gets drinks with Bill as she talks about Desi, and he gives her reassurance.
Older Madelyn mentions how Lucille wanted to transition to bigger film roles. She scored the female lead role in “The Big Street”, beating out Rita Hayworth and Judy Holliday. Lucille later meets with RKO’s Head of Production, Charles Koerner (Brian Howe). He tells her they are dropping her contract due to the financial underperformance of “The Big Street”. She later gets drunk at home while going over scripts.
Thursday, Run-Throughs – Lucille continues to criticize the writing of the episode they are filming. She later argues with Jess, who feels he is having control stripped away from him. However, Lucille confides to Jess that she needs his help in saving her marriage. Afterward, she talks to Madelyn, who argues that Lucy on the show is too infantile, in part for her propensity for saying “Waaah!” when she’s upset. Lucille argues that male comics like Laurel & Hardy or Abbott & Costello are revered for their childish behavior, but Madelyn finds them ridiculous. Meanwhile, Desi relays Lyons’ response to Jess regarding showing Lucy being pregnant – “Don’t fuck with the Cuban.”
Lucille reads over the scripts while Desi takes care of their baby, Lucie. She later calls Bill and Vivian to meet at the studio at 2:00 AM to rearrange the dinner scene. They rehearse the scene in a different setup per Lucille’s direction.
Lucille later does a radio program, “My Favorite Husband.” The producers admire her physical movements despite it being a radio production, and Jess informs Lucille that the producers want to make a televised version of “My Favorite Husband.” When Lucille meets with the lawyers and sponsors, she tells them she wants Desi to play her husband, but they appear to take issue with featuring a Hispanic man as a lead. Lucille refuses to take no for an answer and says she will only do it if Desi is cast.
Friday, Show Night – A newspaper prints in big letters on the front page accusing Lucille of being a communist. While Desi promises to Lucille that he will reassure the audience that these are nothing but baseless claims, he does remind her of his own trauma with communists when fleeing Cuba. Afterward, she has a heart-to-heart with Madelyn, Vivian, and Bill, to which they are all surprised to hear her say something nice to them.
Just before the show begins, Desi addresses the audience regarding the communism accusations. He tells them that his wife is not a communist, and even calls none other than J. Edgar Hoover to prove that there was no evidence to suggest that Lucille is a communist. Desi brings her out, and the audience cheers wildly for her. They go to the dressing room before their performance, but Lucille once again asks Desi if he is cheating on her. Her proof is a handkerchief that has lipstick smeared on it, which Desi says was from recently when Lucille kissed him and wiped it off, claiming that’s her lipstick. She then pulls out the handkerchief that actually DOES have her lipstick. Desi comes clean and admits that he was cheating on her with call girls. Lucille is willing to forget about it at least until after the show.
The older Jess, Bob, and Madelyn talk about how the episode of “Lucy” where Little Ricky was born was the most-watched episode of television at the time. They then talk about the opening of the episode that they were filming, where Desi comes in with “Lucy, I’m home!” but Lucille stood frozen for a moment before acting like it was part of the show. They carry on with their performances.
The final text states that Lucille filed for divorce from Desi on March 3rd, 1960, the morning after their final performance.
The film is a dramatized look at one week of production of the hit TV series "I Love Lucy", as well as the offscreen relationship between its two stars, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz.
Lucille has a reputation for being difficult and critical of the staff, but she is also being investigated for alleged ties to the communist party and is also dealing with rumors that Desi is being unfaithful. She also announces her pregnancy, and the studio's lawyers and sponsors are cagey about depicting a pregnant woman on television.
In the end, the studio allows for a "Lucy" episode where she and Ricky are expecting a child, and Lucille is vindicated of any involvement with communism by J. Edgar Hoover, who confirms with Desi before the live studio audience before the taping of their show. However, Desi later admits to cheating on Lucille with call girls. She goes through with the show, but later files for divorce from Desi.