Amazon Studios’s release of Lucy and Desi fills the gaps that their previous work, Being the Ricardos, doesn’t explore. While it doesn’t offer anything new television historians don’t know, this excellent documentary does the job to revisit the pressures they faced from a different perspective. Both fled from one world to go live in another, either New York or Florida, in their pursuit of the American dream.
Both found success before meeting. Their love and failed relationship–as recounted in the prior drama–isn’t the focus. This take by filmmaker/documentarian Amy Poehler looks more at how they became a career focussed couple. Their bond only got stronger after the divorce. It’s well known that Desi didn’t enjoy living under Lucille’s shadow, so that’s why he needed his excursions elsewhere to be happy. Sadly, that included certain vices no doubt inherited from his family’s opulent life. Also, Desi stepped away from the limelight. It helped preserve the relationship instead of letting it fall apart.
This documentary expertly examines everything they went through because we’re hearing it from their point of view. What’s collected is a look based on archival footage, personal audio journals, and interviews (both old and new) from their peers. It doesn’t spend a lot of time with the uncomfortable truths to make us cry. Instead, what we see is a careful deconstruction of how their relationship worked.
The best parts include anecdotes about their legacy not only from the perspective of their children but also other comedians. I enjoyed how prominent Carol Burnett‘s narrative is in this documentary. Prior to her fame, Ball gave this aspiring comedian her chance, and it didn’t take long for her to become the talent to pay attention to in the 70s. She quickly got her own variety show. Other well-known celebrities who chimed in about Lucille’s influence include Bette Midler and Charo, amongst many others.
Hollywood’s respect for Ball and Arnez is the stuff of legends. What burdened her was in how busy she became as Desilu studio chief of operations. We didn’t know that she sometimes gambled at deciding when to sell ownership of the franchises that she helped make big, like Mission Impossible and Star Trek. After watching this work, we can empathise and understand why she opted to sell her studio to Gulf+Western / Paramount. But ultimately, their success story is one for the ages, and that’s why We Love Lucy today.
4 Stars out of 5