Review: Lucy and Desi

Teeming with personality and humanity, Amy Poehler’s Lucy and Desi paints a complex portrait of a Hollywood marriage and a business partnership while resisting the urge of turning anyone into a villain.

Friends, relatives, business partners, and the couple themselves discuss the lives, marriage and business partnership between Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. The film tracks the early lives and careers of both parties until they came together in marriage and eventual partnership on I Love Lucy. Following the ending of the show as well as the disillusion of their marriage and their relationship after their romantic one ended.

While the bulk of the film does focus on Ball and her impact on the careers that proceeded her, Arnaz is shown as equally important. Audio tapes and recorded interviews utilize Ball and Arnaz’s own accounts of events, both good and bad. Regardless of the truth of who is at fault for the failures in their marriage, all recollections and interviews show a deep-seeded mutual respect. Arnaz is nothing but effusive in his praise of Ball’s talent, while Ball constantly mentions Arnaz’s behind-the-scenes acumen.

This respect gives a complex insight into how a showbiz marriage can fall apart. No one event or single transgression led to the breakup, but rather a death of a marriage by a thousand cuts. Even the Arnaz-Ball children don’t directly take a side. Both can be seen at fault and both can be understood. In fact, both Lucy and Desi claim to have initiated the divorce proceedings.

More than anything, Poehler keeps it all entertaining. You obviously cannot tell the story of Lucy and Desi without I Love Lucy, and clips are plentiful. As much as the film is a love letter to the doomed relationship, it makes it all worth while if you put it into context. Poehler lays out the impact of I Love Lucy as well as the impact Desilu Productions had going forward. This is not an example of one successful show. This is a partnership that created careers across decades.

As much as the film focuses on the relationship, it could also be viewed as a time-capsule look at the brilliance of I Love Lucy. While some could view Lucy and Desi as a PR spin, I view it as a testament to achieving your goals and what to do after you reach them. While the couple couldn’t last, their legacy and business success continues to endure decades after their marriage ended.

Lucy and Desi streams on Amazon Prime starting on Friday, March 4
Score: 3.5/5.0

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