Amy Pohler’s documentary Lucy and Desi is a strong effort that respects the impact that Lucille Ball and Desi Arnez had, even if it feels safe at times.
In Hollywood, one of the most well-known couples is Lucille Ball and Desi Arnez. They have bathrooms named after them in studio lots, and they created one of the most iconic and influential television shows of all time, I Love Lucy. Serving as equally informational and entertaining as Being the Riccardos, a 2021 biopic about this couple, Lucy and Desi plays out to be an insightful documentary with a lot of heart. This documentary explores the history of this iconic couple. Lucille Ball and Desi Arnez had a very unlikely but powerful romance that impacted television for the better in countless ways. With Lucille breaking down barriers for women in comedy and Desi breaking down different barriers for representation in television, this documentary is able to provide viewers with the immense influence that they both had as well.
One of the best parts of the documentary is that Amy Pohler, the director, clearly has a lot of love for both this era and this couple. The way that the information is presented to the viewer is with a lot of respect and admiration for both Lucy and Desi in their own respective ways. This is best seen through the interviews that are sprinkled out throughout the documentary, in particular with Bette Middler and Carol Burnett. These interviews take place in the second half of the film, where it really gets the chance to hit its stride since it is mainly focused on their post-I Love Lucy careers and the spheres of influence that they both had on the comedy world.
With that being said, Lucy and Desi is a Hollywood documentary at its very core, and there isn’t anything wrong with that. My main issue with it being a Hollywood documentary is that Pohler is unable to find a unique voice in telling this story. This couple reinvented the comedy genre on television and, while that information is told to us on screen, it isn’t presented in a way that would make it seem revelatory. This lack of originality is especially apparent in the first half, when the film discusses the origins of I Love Lucy and how the couple became such a powerful team. There are so many different ways to present information in documentaries nowadays, and having one of the funniest women on tv direct this film sets a false expectation on the entertainment value for Lucy and Desi. By no means is this documentary boring, it’s just too conventional for its subject matter.
Even with the documentary being conventional, it does pay proper respect to the legacies of both Lucy and Desi. Lucille Ball was an inspiration for so many comedic geniuses of our age, Amy Pohler included. How she paved the way for many other people to shine is beautifully portrayed and is definitely one of the highlights of the whole documentary. On top of this, the film shows how Lucy and Desi’s relationship changed as they aged but how they still had love for each other: this is incredibly wholesome and is the most important part of the documentary to get right. Having so much information about what happened after I Love Lucy is extremely refreshing, since this is the lesser-known information about the couple, and thus is another peak of the documentary as a whole.
Even though Lucy and Desi feel too familiar stylistically, it still is plain old sweet. Seeing clips of I Love Lucy intertwined with interviews and home videos is heartwarming to the point where, when the documentary is at its best, it is impossible to keep a smile off your face. Lucille Ball and Desi Arnez are absolute icons in Hollywood, so any documentary that properly respects and brings their legacy to light deserves to be praised, regardless of any flaws. By the end of this film, the main goal of making a documentary about this couple has been achieved. You will leave the room saying “I Love Lucy (and Desi).”
Lucy and Desi will premiere March 4, 2022 exclusively on Amazon Prime Video.
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