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Scenes From a Marriage

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Courtesy of Sundance Institute

MOVIE REVIEW
Lucy and Desi (2022)

Those vexed by the revisionist history in Aaron Sorkin’s “Being the Ricardos” may be looking forward to Amy Poehler’s documentary “Lucy and Desi” – both films focusing on the off-screen relationship between Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, stars of the storied 1950s CBS sitcom “I Love Lucy,” and released three months apart by Amazon Studios/Prime Video. The good: “Lucy and Desi” is built around Ball and Arnaz’s own words culled from cassette tapes in the private collection of their daughter, Lucie Arnaz Luckinbill. The bad: Her involvement does kind of place the documentary’s objectivity in doubt. One can’t shake the feeling that she’s pushing her own narrative about her parents.

The documentary retraces how Ball and Arnaz got their respective starts in showbiz, with her joining the Goldwyn girls in the late 1920s and his arriving as a refugee from Cuba and playing with the Siboney Septet in Miami in the mid-1930s. The two met on the set of the 1940 film “Dance, Girl, Dance” and married six months later. They then spent nearly a decade apart due to his Army service and touring with the band. When CBS sought to bring her 1948-1951 radio show “My Favorite Husband” to TV, Ball saw it as an opportunity finally for her and Arnaz to be together. The network of course wasn’t immediately sold on him as the leading man, and the film fittingly acknowledges his significance in television history.

“Lucy and Desi” seems much less forthcoming on touchier issues, such as Ball’s red scare situation. It’s equally hazy about the dissolution of Ball and Arnaz’s marriage, alluding to his drinking as the main culprit. It’s the kind of sketchiness that unwittingly legitimizes Mr. Sorkin’s exercising artistic license. The film insists their divorce was amicable, and that Ball and Arnaz were fond of each other until his death in 1986. It’s not that the documentary needs to be sensationalist tabloid fodder, but the through-rose-colored-glasses Hollywood ending feels somewhat forced.

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