Friday, June 26, 2020

TV Series Review - Z: The Beginning of Everything

Z: The Beginning of Everything
Based on the book by Therese Anne Fowler
Starring: Christina Ricci, Maya Kazan, Sarah Schenkkan, Jamie Anne Allman, David Strathairn, Kristine Nielsen, Scott Rosenfeld, David Hoflin, Jim True-Frost, Talia Balsam, Matt Malloy, Holly Curran, Jordan Dean, Corey Cott, Andrew Call, Andrew Bridges, Joel Brady, AJ Cedeno, Christina Bennett Lind, Natalie Knepp, Lucy Walters, Bill Phillips, Tony Manna, Cameron Scoggins, Conor Donovan, Randy Kovitz, Sean Bell, Ian Jarvis, Jun Naito, and Gene Jones
Release Date: January 27th, 2017
Rating: ★★★★
To Watch

Zelda is a bit of a whirlwind to the belles of Montgomery, Alabama. She swims, in a nude colored bathing suit, she dances, ballet as well as the more risque numbers, she parties, she drinks, she smokes, she hangs outside the local whorehouse with her friends shaming the men going inside. She isn't like anything that is expected or acceptable, yet she is endearing, even to her exasperated family. She's the baby who is going to break all the rules and when F. Scott Fitzgerald enters her life, he's the biggest break their is. A Yankee who aspires to be a writer who will break her heart again and again, yet she cannot live without him, she cannot give him up. And she does try. But then his book is finally accepted for publication and Zelda finally accepts his marriage proposal and their whirlwind of a life begins. Arriving in New York City Zelda is overwhelmed by how vast and big their new life shall be. They get married and the nonstop party begins that very night in the honeymoon suite of their hotel. Zelda soon realizes that in order to fit in she's going to have to be even bolder and brassier and bare herself to be accepted as Scott's wife. So she transforms into a character straight out of one of Scott's stories. Short hair, sultry dresses, no more frills and furbelows for the wife of F. Scott! But also because she's his wife, no more freedom with her own artistic expression. Any dreams of taking her "it" girl status to the next level in Hollywood is stifled by Scott. She's there to come to his readings, to inspire him, to be on his arm as he parades his success in front of all those who thought he'd never make it. A success that needs a followup if they are to keep living the life they are. Because the bills keep piling up and Zelda keeps spending the money, being kept in the dark by Scott as to their finances. Therefore they must leave New York and they get a house in Westport. There all their troubles are amplified and things come to a head. But one thing is certain, no matter how bad they are for each other they cannot survive apart. 

Therese Anne Fowler's book on Zelda Fitzgerald is an interesting logistical puzzle when you get to adapting it. From the framing device to Zelda and Scott's power dynamic to the narrative style, everything had to be reconsidered within this new medium. First and foremost is switching from a first person narrative to a hybrid which fleshes out the characters as something other than just how Zelda sees them while maintaining her voice. In order to successfully do this I was intrigued that instead of having Zelda and Scott somewhat equals they softened Zelda and hardened Scott, leaning heavily into being "Team Zelda" as Fowler herself puts it. Instead of Zelda's work and influence on Scott as a kind of "collaboration under duress" Scott is all out stealing her words and making them his own. He comes across as a pilfering, hostile, unlikable drunk, who will hurt Zelda any way he can. Now the book didn't endear me to Scott, but this series, it made me really hate him. There wasn't really any grey areas to their relationship, it was much more black and white, and to me, maybe a bit more romantic because there is the victim and the victor, and Zelda is deified as the true genius. While this might feel less realistic, Zelda has spent years being the millstone around Scott's neck in biographies and movies, so perhaps it was time for a little justice. Perhaps it was time for Zelda to be the out and out heroine. It sure made for bingeable viewing! Each thirty minute slice of life flowed into the next until the abrupt ending, which was meant to bridge into a second season which was commissioned and then cancelled. I can see why, once their daughter Scottie enters the picture their life changes and the show wouldn't have had the roaring twenties ritziness that so exemplifies the first season. The look, the feel, the sets, the costumes, everything made this time period come alive, almost more than the book. Because if anything, the twenties is about appearances, and well, no matter how well written a book is, sometimes things have to be seen to be believed.


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