Lucy and Desi review – Amy Poehler still loves Lucille Ball in feelgood documentary

With special access to family archives, the Parks and Recreation star explores the life of the 50s comedy trailblazer and her husband, Desi Arnaz

Amy Poehler directs this feelgood documentary about Hollywood couple Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, stars of the popular 1950s sitcom I Love Lucy. It’s a cute (or, depending on how you want to see it, cynical) accompaniment to Aaron Sorkin’s Oscar-nominated drama Being the Ricardos, also produced by Amazon, adding behind-the-scenes context to how the sausage of the TV show was made. We learn briefly about the strain it put on their marriage, though the film ultimately insists on a happy, misty-eyed ending.

A series of cassettes provided by Ball and Arnaz’s daughter are a coup for Poehler; the 20 tapes contain recordings of interviews with the late actors. We hear Ball’s distinctive, gravelly voice describing how she grew up watching vaudeville shows with her grandfather and explaining how she was inspired by its school of farce. A cast of actors and academics despair at the thought of a powerhouse like Ball being “mansplained”, and highlight her struggles to get pregnant (she had her first child aged 40). Poehler, herself a gifted comedian, doesn’t include her own voice in the film, though we still get a sense of her feminist perspective.