Christina Ricci plays Zelda Fitzgerald as an iron butterfly in Z: The Beginning of Everything, a new 10-part series streaming on Amazon Prime starting Friday. The series is intent on proving that Zelda Sayre, who married the novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald in 1920, was an important creative person in her own right, but the show demonstrates it’s hard to avoid the probable truth — that Zelda was more muse than creator.
“I have the most kissable mouth in town,” Zelda says, and that line sets the tone for the series, which consists of snackable half-hour episodes. Zelda is at once a flirt and an intelligent woman, an ambitious person and a socializer who could match the bibulous Fitzgerald drink for drink. A Roaring ’20s proto-flapper, this Zelda — based on a biography of the same name by Therese Anne Fowler — is a hothouse powerhouse. You can see why Ricci wanted the role.
In the context of this series, the author of that masterpiece The Great Gatsby comes off as a co-conspirator, and in some ways weaker than Zelda in discipline. “I’m gonna be a famous writer some day,” says Scott Fitzgerald in the opening episode, and as the series proceeds, boy, does he ever. At first, the fame seems merely his due. But after a while, Fitzgerald — portrayed by David Hoflin — is swallowed up by the social life.
The show has Zelda and Scott swanning around with now near-forgotten big names such as Tallulah Bankhead, Edmund Wilson, and Edna St. Vincent Millay. Jim True-Frost is excellent as the great book editor Maxwell Perkins. Too often, Z makes its actors look like kids playing dress-up, acting with their starched collars and the champagne glasses that seem permanently affixed to their hands. The story lacks much in the way of momentum other than the downward spiral of too much booze, too little creation of art. Z: The Beginning of Everything is a spiffy soap opera, but not much more than that.
Z: The Beginning of Everything is streaming now on Amazon Prime.