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Lucy and Desi review: When love imitates art

Photo of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz.
Photo of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. Pic credit: Library of Congress/Amazon Studios

Lucy and Desi bring a collage of audio and video archives together to retell the love story of the greatest couple in television history.

The documentary from actress and comedian Amy Poehler is an emotional recount of the powerhouse love story of these television titans — from love at first sight to the creation of an iconic television show, and to a bittersweet ending in life as well as careers.

With so much history involved with these icons, the documentary has a lot to unpack in 102 minutes. Does the Lucy and Desi documentary do their story justice?

Here is our review of Lucy and Desi coming to Amazon Prime Video.

Lucy and Desi review

In the documentary, we hear audio recordings of conversations with Lucille Ball herself before she passed away with all of her life in entertainment playing over the discussions. Included is past archival audio of Desi in various interviews and conversations.

What is made clear upfront is that Lucille Ball left behind a string of tapes discussing her life but when these tapes were recorded is not conveyed.

Using these discussions, Amy Poehler uses footage from both Lucy and Desi’s life in entertainment to tell their amazing and heartbreaking love story.

Most viewers will go in wanting to see how I Love Lucy came to be. And while the documentary does highlight the beginning and end of one of the greatest sitcoms in history, Lucy and Desi is about their lifelong relationship as performers, as a team, as a couple, as parents, and as friends.

Watching Amy Poehler’s documentary brings a new appreciation to what they accomplished as entertainment professionals.

Most of us watch I Love Lucy and never consider how much of a miracle it is that the show was even made. This is a sitcom starring an interracial couple that was broadcasting in 1951. And Poehler shows the long road they both had to face to get the sitcom made, much less convincing a studio that a Cuban could be the husband in an American sitcom.

Moreso, it elaborates the insanity of Desi Arnaz’s rise as a performer. Here is a man that came over as a refugee fleeing Cuba who had nothing and became a household name across North America.

Various discussions spotlight the hard work Lucille Ball went through to become a comedic actress. She mentions in the documentary that she did not consider herself funny but it was a trained art. An art form that took years of hard work to craft and get better at.

And as we see the rise of their careers, from when they met, to getting a legendary show, to pioneering others into the entertainment industry with Desilu Productions, we also see how all great things have an end.

Picture of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz from the documentary Lucy and Desi. Pic credit: Library of Congress/Amazon Studios

What can be said about Lucy and Desi is that it is surprisingly inspiring. When viewers revisit their story, they will remember anything is possible with the right amount of hard work and passion. But it also shows that it takes the right teammate to nurture these goals.

Moreover, Lucy and Desi is a bittersweet story about love imitating art. Through all their ups and downs, their love and friendship influenced the creativity and framework of everything they touched. And with everything this documentary covers, it really shows that love in friendship or romance can inspire infinitely.

If there are any complaints to be had about Lucy and Desi, it would be the fact that an hour and forty minutes leaves much to be desired. The legacy of these two performers is vast and at times one can feel the editing having to take shortcuts for the sake of runtime. This is the type of story that would benefit from having two or three parts to cover everything.

Still, Amy Poehler did a spectacular job considering the amount of material she had at her disposal.

The reason for this is that the ending of this documentary is incredibly emotional. We get taken on a hundred-minute journey about two people who were friends to the end. And it is a testament to the documentary that viewers will cry by the end of it. The story might feel rushed and leave gaps of real-life truth but it gallops with such tenderness.

Should you stream Lucy and Desi on Amazon Prime Video?

Amy Poehler’s documentary is a sweet love letter to the powerhouse icons.

It might feel rushed because there is so much story here to tell in one documentary. But Poehler focused on the most important part, which was the relationship between Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz.

And the execution is inspiring and incredibly heartfelt. This writer was moved to tears in the final stretch of this film and chances are others will be too.

For readers looking for more Amazon Prime Video releases, check out our reviews for I Want You Back and Hotel Transylvania: Transformania.

Lucy and Desi will begin streaming on March 4 on Amazon Prime Video.

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