Review: 'Z: The Beginning of Everything' spotlights the original Jazz Age flapper
Theirs was a love story for the ages. The Jazz Age, specifically.
Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald met at the end of World War I in Zelda's hometown of Montgomery, Ala., when she was still a teen.
She was full of spirit and spunk. He was a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army who dreamed of being a famous writer. They were both icons of their time with lives tragically cut short.
Amazon's new original series, Z: The Beginning of Everything, chronicles the Fitzgeralds' lives through the eyes of the more compelling of the two — Zelda.
Based on the 2013 novel Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler, the show moves through the turbulent life of Zelda, played out in the salons of Montgomery and speakeasies of New York City.
Christina Ricci (The Addams Family, The Lizzie Borden Chronicles) plays Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald as a fully-formed idol from the start. She's the insatiable Southern Belle who's both fiercely aware of what she wants out of life and what others expect of her. Her legendary marriage to F. Scott Fitzgerald (David Hoflin) gave way to a life of drinking, parties and debt.
She yearned to be seen not just as Scott's muse, but as a creative person in her own right. In the show, Zelda is thrilled when she finds Scott lifted some passages from her diary to use in his debut novel This Side of Paradise. Scott continued to mine Zelda's writings for the luminous prose that made him famous. In reality, she deserved so much more credit for her elegant style.
You would expect a 10-episode period drama with half-hour episodes to feel rushed and condensed. But Z moves sluggishly through its first few episodes, accelerating once Scott gets his big book break.
Creators Nicole Yorkin and Dawn Prestwich and executive producer Pamela Koffler weave together a beautiful doomed love story and give a much-needed voice to an iconic woman who was often thought of only in terms of her husband's success.
Scott didn't make Zelda. Zelda created herself.
She appreciated shock value both with her stuffy Southern family (David Strathairn as her father Judge Anthony Sayre and Kristine Nielsen as her mother Minnie) and with her progressive new friends.
Zelda didn't bristle at any opportunity to forgo stockings and bathing suits in Montgomery, and she certainly didn't bat an eye when coming out of her room fully naked to clear out her and Scott's wedding reception.
Their first meeting in sultry Montgomery in 1918 is full of heady young love and potential. By the time they get to New York, they're both diving deep into celebrity culture, with Scott butting heads with top literary critics of the time and Zelda struggling to fit in social circles comprised of actress Tallulah Bankhead (Christina Bennett Lind) and poet Edna St. Vincent Millay (Lucy Walters).
As Scott hits intoxicating highs and lows with his book career, so does his marriage to Zelda. They both struggled with alcoholism, adultery and squashed dreams. The first scene in the pilot hints to Zelda's death at a mental institution after it caught on fire when she was just 47.
While Z doesn't offer much more on Zelda's life than we already know, it's a treat for those who've just been introduced to the legendary flapper. It hits all the biographical notes scholars look for while capturing both Zelda's and Scott's youthful naivety and rebellious personalities.
Their intoxicating love story doesn't end happily, but Z is a captivating look at the most famous couple of the Lost Generation.
Contact Chelsea Tatham at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @chelseatatham.
If you watch
Episodes of Z: The Beginning of Everything are available to stream at midnight Jan. 27 on Amazon Prime.