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Friday Film Review--"Lucy and Desi"

Comedian-actress Lucille Ball and her husband, musician-actor Desi Arnaz, stars of <em>I Love Lucy.</em>
Comedian-actress Lucille Ball and her husband, musician-actor Desi Arnaz, stars of I Love Lucy.

I Love Lucy was a television tradition growing up for many of us. We all loved Lucy and the laughs the show delivered to our living rooms.

The on-screen characters of Lucy and Ricky Ricardo, and the series, were created by the real-life couple of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. Their Emmy-winning show aired from 1951-1957 and was the highest-rated show during much of its run. So, it’s not surprising that Lucy and Desi have been the subjects of several films and documentaries, including 1993’s Lucy and Desi: A Home Movie directed by their daughter Lucie Arnaz, and last year’s biopic Being the Ricardos.

And this week, Lucy and Desi premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. Directed by comedian Amy Poehler, the documentary follows the on and off-screen lives of Lucy and Desi, which is often narrated in their voices through some recently discovered audiotapes.

This film takes a deeper dive than the others before it, offering an intimate portrait of the trailblazing couple.

Poehler blends the backstory of the making of the television series with the couple’s real-life journey of raising a family and creating Desilu Productions, one of Hollywood’s most successful television production companies.

Interviews throughout the film feature Lucy and Desi’s friends and family, including Carol Burnett, Bette Midler, Norman Lear, and the couple’s daughter Lucie. Through their shared stories, we learn of Lucy’s mentorship of Burnett and Midler, and how the couple were the first to show a pregnant woman on TV and introduced the “rerun” to television. At the same time, Lucy took time off after the on-and-off screen birth of “Little Ricky”/Desi Arnaz Jr.

The anecdotes shared by their daughter Lucie offer poignant, personal stories about the couple’s struggles, eventual divorce, Desi’s alcoholism, and depression, and Lucy and Desi’s enduring bond and friendship that remained until the time of Desi’s death in 1986.

Running 1 hour and 42 minutes and not yet rated, Lucy and Desi is an inspiring film worth watching that honors the legacy of the entertainment industry’s most influential couple.

One of KPCW's Friday Film Review, reviewers.