It goes without saying that Zelda Fitzgerald and her husband F. Scott Fitzgerald are legendary figures in American history. In fact, it’s rare that you meet someone who hasn’t read or heard of F. Scott’s The Great Gatsby, the classic that single-handedly revolutionized American pop culture in the 1920s.
If you didn’t know already, one of the main characters in the novel, Daisy Buchanan, was actually inspired by his wife, Zelda. Despite having only authored one work in her lifetime, Zelda is almost hailed to the same esteem as her husband. Just like the contemporary celebrities we see today, Zelda and F. Scott were well-known for their romance. However, it was their reputation as a twosome—and Zelda’s status as the world’s first flapper—that gave rise to the G-status bestowed upon them today.
Which begs us to ask the following question: Does Christina Ricci pay proper homage to the historical beauty? Furthermore, does the writing in the Amazon Original series give an accurate depiction of the events that took place during her existence? I mean, sure, we all know that Ms. Ricci can pull off crazy at the drop of a hat (cc: Lizzie Borden Took an Ax), or just plain cuckoo (cue her strangeness in The Addams Family), but how will she hold up in an iconic role such as this?
Even though admirers of Zelda were aware of her bouts and struggles after being diagnosed with manic depression, she wasn’t really crazy. She was brilliant in her own right, so finding the perfect actress to play her will take a certain finesse that illustrates just how stellar she truly was.
Despite my skepticism, I must say, Ricci seems very committed to the part. She’s done her research, too: from listening to testimonies from Zelda’s daughter to studying her accent—it shows she’s dutiful to making Z as great as it should be. And shouldn’t that count for something? Yes, but I can’t help but agree with Charlie Lyne’s critique of Ricci’s portrayal turning out to be a “confused cliche.”
This article contains spoilers from the show Z: The Beginning of Everything from this point on
The first thing that struck me while watching the series was Ricci’s use of an accent. No one in her Alabama town uses the same exact one? Despite the show’s slow start and inconsistencies, the episodes are a rush, much like the rush one might feel if they were actually Zelda herself. She is a force and you certainly feel her presence emanating through Ricci on-screen, so I’ll give the show creators that much. Unfortunately, however, what the series seems to shrug off is the depth of Zelda’s character; we never get to witness who she really was as a person.
As noticed in Episode 1, watchers might deduce that Zelda is, in fact, a complex woman than a mere sub-plotted character to her husband’s legacy. We witness her burst with personality and her defiance towards her father in the premiere shows resistance. She skinnydips, goes on outings with other boys, and drinks whiskey, making her all the more tardy to her family’s sacred dinner festivities. Even so, the way her role is written somehow lacks substance. Is this really how Zelda was like? That’s what I was hoping to get a glimpse of.We do get to see her boldness and libido in Episode 4 when she and F. Scott actually wed and that just wants to get it on with her new husband. She even makes an announcement to the party guests telling them just that, completely naked no less. We see her passion again in the next episode when Zelda, out of anger at F. Scott for passive aggressively implying she should change her look to fit in more, adopts her signature flapper look. That’s our girl, Zelda, standing out all the more!
It’s well-shown that Zelda was restless and full of creative energy, but somehow what the show seems to demonstrate the most is her vulnerability and submissiveness, namely to her husband. Case in point, this is seen in Episode 6. Between F. Scott’s fame and Zelda’s new look, they quickly become the talk of the town. This new attention also brings new opportunities including a screen test. Zelda is impressive on film and gets an offer to sign a filming contract. Instead of being supportive of his wife, however, F. Scott seems jealous; and instead of taking the opportunity that’s offered to her, she doesn’t, all at the expense of her husband’s own happiness.
But this sort of character obscurity isn’t only attributed to Zelda; the show has a wonderful cast but the supporting characters are hardly given as much of a chance to fully develop on screen. We see this in the show’s conveyance of F. Scott as an egotistical and insecure man. I realized these two attributes have become so pivotal to Zelda and F. Scott’s legendary romance, but why isn’t there more attention drawn to the pair as great literary figures? In a number of episodes, there are not only one but two instances that we witness F. Scott passing off Zelda’s words as his own to his editor. When Zelda reads her words on the page the morning after they’ve had their honeymoon, she isn’t even upset or confused but elated that she would be his muse. (What the heck, you guys?!)
Perhaps this was all intentionally done and they are planning to develop things more gradually as the series continues. After all, the show’s main focal point should be Zelda, and not her husband. I’d like to get to know her. We want to get to know her.I do think the format is smart. Since it isn’t as strong a player as say a Downton Abbey or a Madmen, the thirty-minute approach is the way to go. I do still feel that the show has potential and has had some memorable moments thus far. So Amazon, If there is a season two, I’ll be tuning in to see what’s what.
Although the format of the show is smartly done, it isn’t a strong enough to contend with the likes of say, Downtown Abbey or Madmen, I believe the 30-minute approach was certainly the right way to go. Nonetheless, I still think the show has potential. So Amazon, If there is a Season 2, I’ll be tuning in to see what’s what.