Amy Poehler’s Sundance Documentary About Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz – The Hollywood Reporter

Among the wide selection of stills and footage in stunning impact Lucy and Desi, there is an image that might strike you as a resemblance to the film’s director, Amy Poehler. Picture of Lucille Ball, in a brighter sleep, beaming for the camera: a beautiful clown with big eyes. More than 70 years later I love Lucy transformed the airwaves, many people working in television can follow their inspiration with that popular sitcom and its beloved stars. But Poehler brings a particularly powerful sense of connection and understanding to her documentary debut. Like Ball, she’s a funny and seriously influential woman in the TV business. And she knows a thing or two about being part of a popular comedy couple whose marriage ended in divorce.

The significant emotional impact of Poehler’s film was unexpected because Ball and Desi Arnaz’s story has been told many times before, most recently in a podcast by TCM and Aaron Sorkin’s Being a Ricardian. While they have a lot in common, Poehler’s documentation and the Sorkin feature (both released on Amazon) are very different. The Nicole Kidman and Javier Bardem-themed film feels like a research project under the guise of a feature film, while Poehler’s narration is energized by a personal, painful and sympathy, as it traces career struggles, creative breakthroughs, and forming sorrows.

Lucy and Desi

Key point

A laugh that is pure and pierces the stomach and pain.

Release date: March 4

Location: Sundance Film Festival (Premier)

Manager: Amy Poehler

Writer: Mark Monroe

1 hour 43 minutes

With an insider’s perspective and access to Ball and Arnaz’s archives, Poehler isn’t into a showbiz love story. In addition to the couple’s romantic relationship, there is a post-war country fascination with them. Like a recent documentary about Dean Martin, a superstar of his generation, the film celebrates unsurpassed talent while considering something much quieter, a pain that doesn’t necessarily have to be engraved. subdue or even appease with professional achievement. And like the Martin document, based on the insights of one of his daughters, Lucy and Desi spend quality time with Arnaz and Ball’s first child, Lucie Arnaz Luckinbill. She gave a sought-after and scathing testimony about her parents’ intertwined marriage and careers, citing “a price to pay for success.” Her description of their last conversation, decades after they remarried, is really simple.

Her brother, Desi Arnaz Jr. – the 1953-born was front-page news, in tandem with the precedent-set pregnancy storyline in the second season of I love Lucy – heard from briefly, and featured one-on-one interviews with Carol Burnett and Bette Midler, both of whom are not only die-hard Ball’s fans but supporters. TV conductor Norman Lear offers some insight and Havana-born playwright Eduardo Machado ponders Arnaz’s experience as a Cuban refugee whose aristocratic family was invaded forced revolution.

With its simple format, the document can be charmingly unpredictable in its six-degree split. The inimitable Cue Charo, the widow of Xavier Cugat and unlikely to be a talking head like you imagine. The singer commented on Arnaz’s mentoring by the band Cugat, her characterization and the almost impenetrable Castilian voice that hasn’t changed in the decades since she was a fixture of the show. chat program.

The section of talking heads also includes the children of the main creative collaborators above I love Lucy, Gregg, son of lead screenwriter Jess Oppenheimer and son of director Marc Daniels, David, as well as chief executive and chief archivist of the National Center for Comedy – located in Ball’s hometown upstate New York, blocks from the Lucille Ball Desi Arnaz Museum. Does that make Jamestown the center of the comedy universe? For people of a certain age, perhaps.

With a dynamic sense of momentum, yet never losing sight of the core sentiments of the story, Poehler, screenwriter Mark Monroe, and editor Robert A. Martinez (both of whom worked on the story). The Bee Gees: How you can mend a broken heart and Ron Howard’s Pavarotti) skillfully choreographed a mix of new interviews, home movies, behind-the-scenes and other rare scenes. See the beauty of Ball and Arnaz during a makeup check in the studio, amusing each other and dazzled the camera.

For those core sentiments, the concept of family responsibility, informed by early trauma, Ball and Arnaz unite from the start, however different their backgrounds are. A terrible event befell the working-class grandfather who raised her and her brother, and it set her on the breadth of the family when she was still a teenager. “I was eager to earn enough money to take the burden off their shoulders,” she told one interviewer. Teenager Arnaz felt the same weight after he and his mother fled their island nation and started over in Miami.

Their parallel stories are handled with care and efficiency, leading up to their meeting on the set of RKO’s 1940 musical comedy. Too many girls and their marriage six months later. “Lucille Ball Weds Actor,” came the headline, perhaps signaling “Mr. Lucy” a shadow from which Arnaz will never escape, yet he has done an excellent job as a charismatic performer, a creative producer and a visionary businessman.

By the time they met, each had achieved a certain degree of popularity, Arnaz had carved a musical profile with conga as “my desperate dance” and Ball being hailed as the Queen of the Bs. It was emotional to hear her describe the thrill of seeing a character in the script described as “kind of Lucille Ball”. But whoever wrote those words was definitely talking about her looks, not her skeleton; As Midler succinctly put it, it was “one of those great artistic crimes” that Ball’s comedic talent hadn’t been tapped for so many years in those B pictures.

When the television called, she was a famous radio star, and she rocked. Create their perfect intro with I love Lucy, she and Arnaz broke stereotypes, proving that Americans could indeed accept the idea of ​​love between a white woman and a Latino (it would take a few years for that to happen). West story puts its striking tragic spin on such a “mixed” romance). Filmed in front of a studio audience, using multiple cameras, Arnaz rewrote the rules of TV technology, and the show became part of the cultural DNA with its sharp gags and jokes. In scene cutscenes and mental montages, Poehler pays homage to its delicately honed delirium. To see Arnaz and Ball at their peak is to see the word “symbol”, one of the most used words in the English language, restored to its meaning.

As the film weaves between scripted performance and unscripted commentary, David Schwartz’s score moves seamlessly between humor and poignancy. But the key audio component belongs to Arnaz and Ball, thanks in part to the tapes they made themselves – perhaps not completely unprotected, but far enough from the limelight to fend off the glossy cheers. that fame requires. Poehler uses this material (not always identified) to eloquent effect. In Ball’s case, there are also undated interviews with Betty Hannah Hoffman for Women’s Magazine at Home that became the basis for an autobiography, which would not be published until many years after the star’s death in 1989.

Perhaps most striking is the way Poehler poses a few nasty questions to Ball, and her nasty answers, are delivered. Hoffman poses a puzzling query about the star’s miscarriage; David Frost asks for nothing but the definition of love. In each case, the question hung in the air for a moment before Ball answered. Then, her husky, cigarette-like voice shortening to Lucy’s giddy vitality, she said, “I don’t know.”

Lucy and Desi covers a lot, but Poehler’s goal is not a comprehensive career. (One notable omission is that of Vincente Minnelli Long, long intro, the 1954 big-screen hit, in which the pair played a variation of their television characters.) Above all, the filmmaker was interested in the connection between them. It’s not just the spark that sparks magic on the small screen, but the affection and respect that have endured in the sitcom, marriage, and powerful business partnership, Desilu Studios . For a time, it was the largest independent TV manufacturing company in the world. In the end, it played a role in pulling them apart, and they built it on the old RKO lot where they first met.

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