Reviews of movies and TV focused on women

Lucy and Desi is a loving tribute to the world famous entertainers

Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz in Lucy and Desi

Lucy and Desi, from director Amy Poehler, is a look at the entire life stories of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. It tells about their early lives, their marriage, their business empire, and their influence on television and American culture.

Lucy and Desi is the second film I’ve reviewed about the famous couple in just the last few weeks. The first was Being the Ricardos, which was a fictionalized biopic about one week in their lives. Lucy and Desi, on the other hand, is recordings and video of them speaking for themselves throughout their long relationship. Their two children participated in the documentary, as did several good friends such as Carol Burnett and Bette Midler.

Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz in Lucy and Desi

The film starts at the beginning, telling about Lucy and Desi’s early lives. It tells how they met and married. It talks about their rocky marriage. As someone who watched I Love Lucy as a kid without realizing everything the two of them were doing in the television business, I was most fascinated learning about their business success and what they achieved with Desilu Studios. Their innovations set the standard for so much of how television works.

Even after they divorced, Lucy and Desi maintained a good working relationship for almost 30 years. They seemed able to love each other better when they were not married than when they were.

The way Amy Poehler stitched the story together used fewer talking heads than usual. Instead, when someone was telling a story about some aspect of Lucy and Desi’s life, we saw clips of them performing. There were performances of them together and alone. There were home videos and photographs. It was a very effective way to organize a documentary that wouldn’t be possible in other documentaries without such a wealth of archived video and film available.

I heartily recommend this film about two American entertainment pioneers.

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