By Kerry Torpey `20
Ask any literature lovers about the relationship between Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald and you will hear about the tumultuous nights of drinking, partying, and adultery. Amazon’s new series, Z: The Beginning of Everything, attempts to capture the inception of the legendary couple with a specific spotlight on Scott’s muse, Zelda Sayre.
The recently released Amazon series, created by Dawn Prestwich and Nicole Yorkin, is based on the historical fiction novel, Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler.
Dubbed the “first American flapper” by her husband, Zelda Sayre was born in Montgomery, Alabama in 1900. In July 1918, she met future American novelist and writer of The Great Gatsby, Francis Scott Fitzgerald. The two became engaged in 1920, and the rest is history.
Zelda is played by Golden Globe and Emmy nominee, Christina Ricci and Fitzgerald is played by David Hoflin.
The pilot episode begins with a shot of a fluffy pink heel in the midst of what looks to be the remnants of a fire. With Zelda as the narrator, the viewer sees right from the start that Zelda’s story will not be a happy one, despite the juxtaposition of her colorful and jazzy lifestyle.
Whispers in the streets and calls from men all over Montgomery emphasize Zelda as not only a sought-after figure but a criticized one. Her stern father, Judge Anthony Sayre (David Strathairn), proves to be an antagonist for Zelda as his more traditional views and expectations clash with her unapologetic attitude, which makes her “[want] to go someplace shiny and new that’s not obsessed with the past.”
Amongst many critics, Ricci’s performance as Zelda seems to be one of the few redeeming factors about the series. Liz Shannon Miller of Indiewire.com says, “Ricci commits to the role like it’s the role of a lifetime, and honestly, that might be the case. It’s certainly not hard to imagine her scoring a few nominations for this performance.”
Matthew Gilbert of The Boston Globe states, “Zelda wanted to break away from society’s expectations, and so Ricci plays defiance with a capital D.” However, he does feel that Ricci “looks a little too old to play Zelda as a teen.”
Critics like Neil Genzlinger of The New York Times cited a lack of chemistry between Ricci and Hoflin as a major issue within the series. Genzlinger says the co-stars, “are entirely devoid of the thing that the real Fitzgeralds apparently had in abundance: chemistry. Without any sign of a romantic spark, it is not clear why they would endure one another and stay together.”
Liz Shannon Miller of Indiewire.com also commended the high production budget, saying that it made the “period elements,” as in the 1920s costume, makeup, and set design, impressive with “seemingly no detail” spared.
Despite some harsh criticism, there is a light at the end of the tunnel for Z. Jen Chaney of Vulture expects the show to go on and feels that Zelda “deserves to have her story fully told with the kind of detail that episodic television is uniquely equipped to provide.”