Magazine article Variety

Z: The Beginning of Everything

Magazine article Variety

Z: The Beginning of Everything

Article excerpt


Z: The Beginning of Everything

Drama: 10 episodes (10 reviewed); Amazon; Fri. Jan. 27.

Starring: Christina Ricci, David Hoflin

The adjectives "dutiful" and "conventional" were not often applied to Zelda Fitzgerald. They could, however, be applied to "Z: The Beginning of Everything," a handsome but superficial Amazon series about the life of the fascinating woman who married F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Back when they were the toast of not just the literary world but the 20th Century's nascent celebrity culture, Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald were both regarded as rebels - though it could be argued that Zelda was the more subversive of the two. Unconcerned with respectability and bourgeois rituals, she was a wellbred, witty woman who enjoyed shocking New York social circles just after her husband hit it big with his first novel, "This Side of Paradise."

But the former Zelda Sayre began exhibiting her rule-breaking ways much earlier, in the stringent environment of Montgomery, Ala., where a lady who went out without donning thick stockings was considered scandalous. Well before her headline-making behavior in 1920 New York, where the Fitzgeralds were established as the city's most glittering Bright Young Things, Zelda's intimates knew she had the soul of an iconoclastic artist: She was a sharp writer herself, and an astute observer of the radically changing world around her. She deserves a TV show about her life, but this one starts off slowly and only intermittently gains momentum and heft.

One of the best aspects of "Z" is that, like a Fitzgerald short story, individual installments aren't overly long: The 10-episode show is a drama, but each episode clocks in at less than 30 minutes. Occasionally, the show comes close to depicting the riotous, dislocating postwar whirl that the Fitzgeralds inhabited, where affairs, cocaine, and Champagne were common. But given how intense Zelda's emotions could be - and given how cataclysmic her relationship with her husband often was - it's disappointing to find that, in the main, the series doesn't offer much in the way of poetic precision or yearning atmosphere. The best word to describe "Z" is prosaic: It hits all the biographical notes that most former English majors will dimly recall, without adding many additional layers of insight.

The first episodes are centered around Zelda's sleepy, rule-bound life in Montgomery, where her father, a stern judge, tries to keep her from sneaking out at night and doing other things that might harm her reputation. Once she discovers a kindred spirit in Scott (David Hoflin), whose Army unit is based nearby, Zelda (Christina Ricci) finally has an ally who despises the hypocrisies of middle-class life even more than she does. …

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